Aotearoa lacks the multi-generational focus on craftsmanship that can produce Brazilian-style product locally, but local manufacturing is still key to Knuefermann’s business. By producing the bulk of her product in New Zealand, she can take her designs from concept to shopfloor in two weeks. Suppliers from China cover suiting, silks and knitwear.
“I’ve always produced my own stock, my pieces just became so in demand that they just took over,” Knuefermann says.
Today, TK Store stocks around 97 percent Knuefermann-branded items and 3 percent other brands.
The other brands she stocks are typically small high-end labels sourced from overseas, with one new label added each season. Knuefermann is excited about the latest addition – Lf Markey, helmed by a former Burberry designer.
The flagship, Knuefermann, is down by the waterfront on Fanshawe St. It opened nearly three years ago, offering a beautiful airy space designed by Fearon Hay Architects.
Knuefermann started her brand with no capital and quietly worked her way into prominence. It was “pretty much just me” on the shopfloor and designing clothes at the beginning, she says: “I used to work seven days, 24 hours, I went on no sleep for many years until I felt like I could expand.”
“I started out without knowing anything about retail or business or anything,” she says.
Although it was difficult at the time, Knuefermann is now glad she went through that phase of directly doing every job in the business, as she says it’s given her a deep understanding of how the label runs and what it needs.
With the huge growth Knuefermann’s brand has seen over the last few years, there’s come some extra costs and a need for previously-unheard-of business services like human resources and business development. The company now has four full-time staff, plus an array of contractors.
“I definitely delegate everything, so now all I’m doing is designing and putting out fires.”
Ecommerce is now a big part of the Knuefermann label. This is quite a recent development, Knuefermann says, explaining that online only took off after she enacted a much-delayed point of sale upgrade which integrated the POS data with online.
The upgrade was a significant drama which saw much data lost: it took Knuefermann’s team two years to labouriously extract customers’ email addresses from the legacy system before it was finally retired.
It was worth it, says Knuefermann: “Since then, online’s been much, much more interesting. The sky’s the limit.”