Two well-known fashion retailers, Karen Walker’s The Department Store and six-year-old label Harman Grubisa, have shut their doors.
It’s hard out there for a Kiwi apparel retailer, even those at the top of their game.
Designer womenswear label Harman Grubisa rocketed onto the fashion scene in 2014. It opened its first store in Ponsonby a year later, and swiftly consolidated its industry recognition with the prestigious ‘Mercedes Benz Presents’ slot opening New Zealand Fashion Week 2016.
A year later, it became the first brand from New Zealand to win the Australasian International Woolmark Prize.
It’s now announced the end of an era with an Instagram post: “After much consideration, we here at HG have decided to close the doors on our brand.
Time for a new chapter.”
The Department Store
Even the mighty Karen Walker empire couldn’t prevent Takapuna retail store The Department Store from closing its doors at the end of its 10-year lease on January 26. The three-storey boutique was backed by Walker and co-owner Daniel Gosling, director and co-owner of fashion brand Stolen Girlfriends Club and retailer Black Box Boutique.
Walker told Radio New Zealand that The Department Store’s concept had been superceded by social media.
“TDS was created as a destination concept store and the idea of a bricks and mortar store being a destination/concept store is no longer the relevant idea it was in 2009.
“The concept of a destination store now exists in the .com landscape. and bricks and mortar have taken the space of billboards, therefore they have to be positioned in the hub of where things are going on.”
All staff shifted to other areas of the business.
Retail commentator Chris Wilkinson of First Retail Group says designer fashion is a challenging space for all brands with intense, talented competition in a small market.
“It’s sad to lose brands as it’s these independents [like Harman Grubisa” that deliver the differentiation our market needs.”
Wilkinson explains that The Department Store’s closure reflects the change wrought in its local area over the last 10 years.
“At the time The Department Store opened, Takapuna was having a tough time. It had lost its gloss and become impacted by other areas that had developed in a more contemporary way.”
The Department Store’s exciting and innovative presence helped catalyse change, Wilkinson says, and its collective format drew shoppers back to Takapuna. It helped drive confidence for Takapuna’s current retail renaissance with fashion brands and fresh hospitality experiences.
“That original format – on the fringe of this activity – has done its job now.”
He expects Walker will already have a new, equally transformative, project in mind.
“Karen Walker and Jacob Faulk have always been at the leading edge of innovation, so I’d imagine they will be looking at the next model to wow shoppers – and create the same innovation that Department Store did.”