In 2002, Ruby opened its first flagship boutique in Auckland’s High Street in 2002. It now has eight stores in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin. We catch up with Emily Miller-Sharma, General Manager of Kiwi fashion retail leader Ruby and designer at Liam, to talk all things retail, New Zealand Fashion Week, and sustainability.
Ruby is making moves in the New Zealand retail scene, debuting its exciting new collaboration with Japanese mega-brand Hello Kitty this month. Alongside co-founder Kate Sylvester, Ruby is effecting real change in the local apparel industry through the recently established Mindful Fashion New Zealand collective along with co-founder Kate Sylvester.
Are there any NZFW highlights you’d like to share?
I think the highlights for me have been the exhilaration of our team working together to make something that we have never attempted before, and then pulling it off!
What’s it like producing a fashion week show, and carrying on business as usual?
It’s a tricky line to walk, especially as for us we have retail stores that need the same amount of attention during NZFW as they do the rest of the year. A customer that walks into our Hamilton store should get the same level of service, and our retail team should have the same level of support as any other time of year. That can only happen if we plan meticulously and ensure that each team member is focussed on their specific role.
We love that Ruby has made its mark on NZ retail from Auckland to Dunedin. Do you see brick and mortar or ecommerce as the way to go, or is diversification important?
For us, our online and brick and mortar stores support each other. Really and truly “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is the best way to explain how brick and mortar and ecommerce work for us. They absolutely support each other.
We see you offer custom sizing. How does this work?
We want to ensure that our product is available to the most number of people we can. One way of doing this is if a customer wants something in a standard size that we haven’t made (currently our size range that we make in each order is size 4-16) we will make them their size (for example a size 2 or size 20) at standard retail price. Same thing with customers who have different access needs – if they require us to change a button to a zip with a large puller than we will do this at no additional cost also.
Tell us more about using Econyl in your Ruby x Hello Kitty collection?
We are genuinely committed to progressing our social responsibility goals that are outlined in our Toolbox for Change on our website. Part of that is using certified, sustainable fibres. Econyl fibre is founded on four basic principles, ‘Rescue, Regenerate, Remake and Reimagine’ and is made through a process that helps to reduce the global warming impact of nylon by up to 80 percent. in our RUBY x HK BELLA CROP TOP and RUBY x HK BELLA TIGHTS we used a total of 26.4 kg of waste (Econyl yarn) of which 6.6kg came from fishing nets. So for the 25 kilograms of Econyl yarn we bought we will save 14,975 kg CO2, in comparison to virgin yarn.
Tell us more about the Mindful Fashion New Zealand collective.
MFNZ evolved out of us and the team at Kate Sylvester trying to find solutions to common questions when it comes to social responsibility, and coming to the realisation that we would be able to advance much more quickly if we worked collaboratively as an industry rather than as individual companies. We are so passionate about the fashion industry in New Zealand, and we want to work together to ensure that we strengthen all of it – the designers, fabric suppliers, the CMT factories and the retailers.
So far we have created a code of conduct for members to use for their suppliers, have run a workshop for members who produce in New Zealand and have started to talk with international agencies such as the Ethical Trade Initiative to work out a system where we can verify our methodology. We’ve just engaged our local fabric suppliers to see how they can benefit from MFNZ and how MFNZ can support them in moving towards better social responsibility in fabric and fibre production. It is a work in progress, and definitely a labour of love, but one that I know is important and of great value to our industry.
Ruby is a brand loved by both younger and older Millennials. What would you say is the secret to your longevity, and your appeal to a wide range of people?
We genuinely really love making clothes, and I think that essence of fun and enthusiasm is imbued in our clothes and our stores. And that sense of joy can be picked up by all of our customers; It is not limited to a certain age group.