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Applying the X-factor

Media release – March, 2004

Applying the X-factor

What is it with these ad agency types - don’t they have enough stimulation in their day jobs? Last year it was former Saatchi & Saatchi adman Geoff Ross with 42 Below – his own personal take on vodka. Now it’s the turn of Rachel Alexander, owner of the eponymously named Alexanders Advertising introducing the X-factor (as in AleXander) into men’s and women’s knitwear.

Her ‘alexanders of new zealand’ label was launched this month (note to editors: product launch is March 18) featuring fully-fashioned men’s and women’s knitwear in Italian-spun, 19-micron, pure New Zealand Merino. The brand’s signature X is woven into the garment as a design feature or visible where the label attaches. Styling includes three-quarter and Chinese flared sleeves, wide lightweight ribs and a new take on sleeve stripes targeting what Rachel dubs “the mature surfer”.

alexanders of new zealand is unashamedly pitched at upwardly mobile or already affluent 28-50 year olds. They appreciate style but could find high-fashion knitwear a bit too edgy or too young.

“My designs suit investment dressing – contemporary classics with a stylish point of difference,” says Rachel. “The garments are understated but definitely classy and modern.“

The label targets that gap in the market in between the high-fashion brands and the mid-priced classics. “I’ve done a lot of research and it shows that there’s a solid group of shoppers who are confident with their own style and want something that’s beautiful and fresh – but that won’t date. They’re looking for garments with sophisticated edge in a lighter quality finish.”

Rachel says her brand fits well with people who enjoy the finer things in life but don’t want to be pretentious. “The little details I’ve included are subtle but sufficient to impress the discerning eye but not so much as to ‘raise more than an eyebrow’.”

The alexanders of new zealand range has already been taken up by a number of stockists in upmarket tourist resorts – Mount Cook’s Hermitage, Queenstown’s Legends Down Under, Clearwater Resort in Christchurch, Jumpers in Taupo and Back Country in Arrowtown. Given Rachel’s background in the tourism industry (she’s been a tourism and marketing consultant for KPMG, marketing manager for T&Ski, researched the tourism retail market for LWR Industries, chaired Top 10 Holiday Parks, and co-ordinated a cluster of 50 outdoor clothing and equipment manufacturers for TradeNZ) she’s not surprised.

“I’m fed up with seeing the same tacky souvenir pictures on knitwear in tourist shops - designs that have hardly changed in the last ten years. I’m certain discerning visitors don’t need a sheep or kiwi on their knitwear to remind them of New Zealand!”

Boutique retail outlets are also supporting the brand, including Papillon in Havelock North and the new store Grace in Christchurch.

Rachel has always been passionate about colour, form and fabric. Originally she wanted to be an interior designer but wanted a financially secure career path so that she could roll out her own designs, rather than designing for other people. So with eight years in the tourism and apparel industries, a commerce degree and an arts degree in Mandarin and Italian under her belt, she quit her job and set up a business as a marketing consultant in order to “make the money necessary to start a knitwear business.”

Along the way she also did a pattern drafting course and traveled off her own bat to European trade shows to assess yarn and fashion trends. In 1996 she designed a range and evaluated all of the New Zealand manufacturers. “I only found one who could manufacture to the quality standards I desired but they were too busy with their own work to do contract work. So I shelved the idea for later.”

In the interim, Rachel’s consultancy burgeoned into one of Christchurch’s most successful advertising agencies. The time seemed right to try again. Following further intensive market research and a feasibility study, she has finally launched her knitwear label – true to the original concept and with the original manufacturer.

“The advertising agency gives me an opportunity to deal with colour and form but not fabrics. While I have a good eye and used to oversee agency work, I now employ a talented creative director so I’ve lost my creative outlet. Hence designing the knitwear and marketing collateral fulfills this need.”

Over time, Rachel plans to introduce additional brands into her alexanders stable. “I want to develop an umbrella brand so the name alexanders becomes synonymous with elegant creative, regardless of the industry.”

And given her background there’s little doubt she’ll achieve her goal. After all, Ms Alexander is one of life’s over-achievers – she’s represented New Zealand internationally in hang-gliding (flying with the boys, not the girls), was first in class in marketing at Auckland University, and has won numerous advertising and women’s business awards. More recently she’s juggled managing her 12 advertising design agency staff with having her first baby (last September), and indulges in interests ranging from topiary to hunting (as in horses and hounds). Her business card lists her job title as “Director and Marketing Minx”. Need we say more?

Calvin Klein’s agent has been appointed to represent alexanders of new zealand in Australia and Rachel is following up on distribution opportunities in Asia. She’s also targeting the gay market and has an outlet in Paddington, Sydney. Unlike alexanders garments that “hold their shape”, the list of stockists on www.alexandersofnz.co.nz is rapidly expanding…

#ENDS

Authorised by Rachel Alexander

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