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NZ Fashion Makes Confident Return to Australia

New Zealand Fashion Makes Confident Return to Australia

3 May 2004 – 15 New Zealand designer fashion labels will be represented at the ninth annual Mercedes Australian Fashion Week (MAFW) in Sydney from this week, highlighting to Australian and international audiences, New Zealand’s reputation as a nation of creative ideas and talent.

Internationally acclaimed New Zealand labels Zambesi, Trelise Cooper and C People have catwalk shows during the week, while 12 top New Zealand labels will be exhibiting at the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) supported country stand, The Source.

They are: Annah Stretton, Blasé, Doris de Pont/DNA, EGG Maternity, Liz Mitchell Design, Mild Red, Miranda Brown, Ng Design, Obi by High Society, Saga/Soulo, State of Grace and Vertice/VSSP.

“Australia continues to be the major export market for New Zealand designers, taking nearly $324million or 65 % of New Zealand’s apparel exports (December 2003), and interest in New Zealand designers is high,” says Anne Stevenson, NTZE Team Director Creative and Services.

“New Zealand designers have established a strong reputation for their unique look and beautiful finishes. On the commercial side, buyers and retailers know that our designers are globally-focused and committed to the highest levels of customer service and follow up. The worldwide success of The Lord of The Rings trilogy, Whale Rider and accolades at this year’s Oscars have also added to New Zealand’s international reputation for creativity and innovation.”

New Zealand’s fashion designers are aware that developing business capability to achieve export growth is the key to their long-term success and are harnessing their creative ideas to stay ahead in a highly competitive global industry, says Ms Stevenson.

“NZTE staff onshore and offshore aid that process by offering a range of services from exporter education, business advice and mentoring to putting New Zealand designers in touch with international buyers, importers and distributors,” says Ms Stevenson.

Ms Stevenson says that the size limitations of the New Zealand market mean designers are thinking globally from day-one.

“They are driven and entrepreneurial, taking concepts and commercialising them to create strong brands that can compete effectively in high-value global niches.”

“That mindset is essential. Whether you’re in high-fashion, street-wear, children’s wear or maternity, you need to have a commercial strategy that sets you apart from competitors around the world. Competing on price or sheer volume is not enough. Developing strengths in other areas is vital to raising your visibility and then maintaining and growing business after initial contact with buyers and media.”

A February 2004 survey by economic consultants Infometrics, showed that export companies doing well despite the high New Zealand dollar, were those exporting strongly branded, high-value products.

The report shows the fashion sector faring better than others and that young exporters, selling high-margin products were also doing well.

“It points to a realisation among both established and newer players that differentiating your product and creating an element of desire is crucial and we hope that designers entering the market and those looking to export take that on board,” says Ms Stevenson.

Ms Stevenson says that the success of our fashion industry abroad also has positive flow-on effects for New Zealand.

“Having consumers overseas wearing New Zealand labels, seeing influential media, buyers, even celebrities talking about our designers, is the sort of endorsement that you cannot measure in pure dollar terms. It contributes to a growing awareness of New Zealand as a source of unique concepts and creative talent creativity and helps establish New Zealand a desirable ‘brand’ internationally.”

New Zealand’s fashion designers are more than just style ambassadors for the country, says Ms Stevenson.

“They are indicative of the new breed of confident, outward-looking New Zealand businesses that are expanding their horizons and successfully taking on the challenges of doing business in a rapidly changing world environment.”

Quick Statistics: New Zealand’s largest markets and percentage share for apparel exports: (figures to December 2003)

Australia $324million 65% USA $49million 10% UK $31million 6% Hong Kong $12million 2.5% Fiji $8.4million 1.7%

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