A Nineties Streetwear Store With an Inclusive Attitude
Auckland sisters Sian and Tina Kolose launch Hunting Ground Store, an online shop for secondhand goods that celebrates self-expression
Viva: Can you tell us about what makes Hunting Ground Store unique, in a nutshell?
Sian Kolose: Hunting Ground Store is a space that celebrates personal style, self-expression, and inclusivity. We're not here to fill a gap in the market - we're carving out a space where people will see representations of themselves and their style, and we've done all the hunting so they don't have to.
How would you describe the clothing on the site, it seems to have a bit of a 1990s sportswear vibe?
SK: Heaps of our pieces definitely salute the 1990s sportswear vibe, but we wouldn't pinpoint our collection down to any one style or era. The pieces we select are based on what we think our muses, peers, and ourselves would wear. If we were to boil it down though, we would say our collection is a diverse mix of quirky, street and unconventional.
Who or what inspires your own outfit choices?
Tina Kolose: Both our styles have been heavily influenced by culture, especially from music and movies. I love seeing women break gender stereotypes in their clothing, like how Annie Lennox, Grace Jones, Missy Elliott, and Ciara wore baggy clothes or suits instead of the typical ‘feminine' stuff. OutKast did the same, they used textures and colours to mix up what male rappers were wearing.
As a kid, Mum let me wear whatever I was happy in, and listening to rap/hip-hop and playing football probably contributed to my tomboy thing. In primary I wore the boys' uniform too - I remember the first time I wore a dress was at intermediate, because I had to. I'm into a lot of newer rappers like Uzi, Playboi Carti, and Young Thug too. Thugger could be in a dress or a suit and look dope either way.
SK: I'm the oldest sibling and grew up around my parents and what they were into – I remember listening to lots of reggae and rock, and Destiny's Child and TLC were charting when I was in intermediate. Movies were also massive to me – Detroit Rock City, Juice, and Shaft (the original) were my favourites for the style and stories too. Anybody who knows me knows I love horror movies, and I was really into the witchy vibes in The Craft.
Is your own personal aesthetic indicative of the clothing on Hunting Ground?
SK: I think it'd be really hard to do this kind of thing objectively. We've both got different styles and personalities, which you can see in everything we do, but we took what our aesthetics have in common to select the clothing for our collection. That's why we started Hunting Ground – it's elements of our style, but also pieces that inspire us and that we can see others wearing.
Where do you source the clothing from?
SK: From around the globe - Europe to Asia to America and back to New Zealand. There is no limit to where we are willing to hunt. Last year we went on a buying trip from the Cali coast down to the Southern States, and we're constantly searching online for pieces to add to the store or rework.
Who do you see as your customer?
SK: Anyone who is down to explore the never-ending possibilities of their wardrobe and personal style. We also love pushing people's personal style boundaries and put them into pieces they wouldn't usually pick up. Even without our help, we hope anyone who looks at our range will find a piece that speaks to them.
What makes this site unique?
SK: The clothes are the essence of Hunting Ground so they tell the story for us – it's diverse, expressive, and celebrates everybody's personal styles.
How long have you been working on this project?
SK: We've always wanted our own creative space and clothing empire, but about a year ago we decided to fully commit to this project and turn our ideas into a reality. This is our first business venture, and we wanted it to be meaningful, authentic, and legitimate – we weren't going to launch before we were ready, and it's been an intense year of hard work and lessons.
Where does your interest in second-hand clothing come from?
SK: Growing up we were familiar with the rag trade, and were always donning family hand-me-downs, second-hand finds and flea market bootlegs. A lot of our family also worked in the rag industry, which meant that growing up we had access to really iconic and memorable pieces - from USA hoodies to Football jerseys. We've always been into nostalgia, and the best way to time travel was by thrifting. Our family has always loved motorbikes too, so we grew up around Harley and Triumph as well.
Can you tell us a bit about your retail backgrounds?
SK: Between us, we've got 13 years' experience in retail, customer service and management. We've worked in a range of consignment, second-hand and vintage stores across Auckland in different roles - from customer service on the shop floor to buying stock in head office. Through this, we picked up a deep understanding of what customers were looking for when they shop, how to make them comfortable while pushing their style boundaries, and the way to forecast what they do actually want.
Customer service is really important to us, like building relationships with customers who trust us and enjoy their shopping experience. Of course, we also learned the basics of retail like how to run and manage stock, staff, and processing product too, so that side of things comes really naturally to us now.
What is the Chopped and Screwed line?
SK: Chopped & Screwed is our very own line of reworked one-off pieces. Being big hip-hop fans, the name pays homage to DJ Screw – a pioneer and innovator of Houston's chopped and screwed genre. The line will feature pieces we thought could be given a new story and life. It's like when Mariah released ‘Fantasy', then Ol' Dirty Bastard jumped on the remix – the original was good, the remix was great.
This line is really where our personal styles and personalities shine through – the majority of our wardrobes have always been customised. People have always liked what we've done with stuff, so Chopped and Screwed is our creative outlet to share our reworks with others.
What would we find if we raided your wardrobes?
TK: I've always been a tomboy – I'm most comfy in Dickies, Carhartt, Levi's, good quality basics, and printed tees. My wardrobe is based on staple pieces, and I'm pretty understated. I've played football since I was a kid, so I've got heaps of trackies and football jerseys too, so I guess it's a lot of street athleisure, but not really ‘activewear'.
SK: My style changes up a lot, but I've always been really experimental and open to making odd pieces my own. I have a lot of matching co-ords and jumpsuits, things which are easy to wear and throw on. Feeling comfortable in my clothing has always been a priority to me, so I'm often wearing baggy pants with a crop.
I've had some hit and miss looks over the years, but I've always been confident in my style which is really important. I'm just as happy in a baggy hoodie and air force ones as I am in a mesh long-sleeve and linen pants.
You're sisters, how has it been launching this site together? Do you work well as a team?
SK: We come from a big Samoan family, and with two brothers, we've always been really close. Growing up, we spent the majority of our time in each other's pockets and we're hands-down each other's best friends. While we love each other, we're two incredibly headstrong, stubborn, fiery Scorpios who can voice our opinions too.
Whenever we clash, it sparks an honest conversation which drives us forward. We both know what our end goal is, and what we need to do to get there. We're equally passionate about making this successful, which is hugely motivating for us too. In any situation, you would hope that the good times outweigh the bad ones, and luckily in this case, it does.
What's the plan for Hunting Ground, what do you want to do with the site?
SK: While there is the perception that traditional bricks and mortar stores are making way for online shops, for us, the site is the first stepping stone to having our own retail space. Initially, we did plan to just focus on e-commerce, but the reactions to the product when people see it in person, and the feedback we've had when previewing our collection, have made us realise we're going to need to expand sooner than expected!
From experience, we also know that a retail space gives a brand tone and personality that can't just be achieved online, and creates another way to reach new customers too.
• Visit Huntinggroundstore.com