Too often, I think, we celebrate the international fashion industry – we look to those London-based, or New York-based designers or stylists or labels or fashion weeks, and think, "man, they really are the best in the world". But we do this to the detriment of Australian and New Zealand fashion creatives and labels, some of whom are leading their fields, and rival the best anywhere.
Enter Lonely Hearts, who started in Wellington, New Zealand as a graphic-oriented clothing label. Several years on, and a move to Auckland along the way, and Lonely Hearts now boast four lines, including Lonely Lingerie, which is stocked by some of the world's (because sometimes the rest of the world pays attention to us!) best retailers, including Opening Ceremony.
Their success is a combination of excellent product and a vision that speaks to women in a way that women haven't been spoken to before in the arena of lingerie (Victoria's Secret's Perfect Body campaign anyone?). The Lonely lingerie logo is hand-written – by PR and sales manager, Keya Matthews no less – and exemplifies the lo-fi nature of their advertising product: lookbooks are natural, and unretouched, and instead of seasonal campaigns, the label have a project called Lonely Girls. The project involves a couple of the label's favourite photographers going out and shooting their mates hanging out – who often happen to be the likes of Petra Collins – and the resulting shots say: "this lingerie is by women, for women, and for women to admire".
It's an empowering message, and one that has allowed Lonely to expand into loungewear, swimwear and into physical retail. They've recently opened their first retail store, in Auckland's Ponsonby, and here we discuss the store opening with Lonely's founder and lead designer, Helene Morris.
Hey! When did you decide to open a retail store?
It has always been in our plans to open retail for Lonely. Over the last few seasons we've been concentrating on growing our international wholesale and online presence, which has helped build the brand to a level where we could be confident retail would be well received. We felt the timing was right to do something really special for our local customer base, who have been so supportive of Lonely since the brand's inception. In terms of environment, there has been incredible innovation and growth in the Ponsonby area in the last 12 months, and it seemed like a perfect time to bring Lonely into the community.
It seems like kind of a funny thing to do, open a physical retail store in the age of e-commerce. What do you think physical retail can provide that digital retail can't?
A complete experience. We wanted every aspect of the store to reflect Lonely's personality. Many of our customers have commented that walking into the store feels like walking in to 'Lonely's world'.
Who or what inspired the interior?
We were inspired to create a space that was intimate, beautiful and timeless. To do this we decided to forgo the typical 'mannequin in the window' retail model and give our customers a private shopping experience. Rufus our designer was quite surprised that we wanted a full marble wall in the front of the store so that you couldn't see into the space from the street outside. We have travelled a lot over the past couple of years and have visited incredible stores in places like New York, Tokyo and Paris - seeing retail on this scale helped give us confidence to be adventurous with our interior.
Do you stock any other labels apart from Lonely Hearts, Lonely lingerie, Lonely Lounge and Lonely Swim (so many categories now!)?
We are stocking just one other label, a bridal and fine jewellery line by NYC based designer Anna Sheffield. We met Anna on our first sales trip to New York – she is such an amazing woman and we've always had a shared love for each others' lines. Her beautiful jewels perfectly compliment Lonely - we are so excited to be her exclusive stockist in the southern hemisphere.
Auckland seems to be going through somewhat of a retail renaissance, right? How has the retail scene changed there in the past year or so?
Ponsonby in particular has a really amazing energy at the moment. The area has been given incredible support by local and international brands, and as a result it has very quickly become a legitimate high end shopping destination. Despite this growth it still retains a beautiful sense of locality and originality, and a charm which is so characteristic of the area.
How does the retail space best encapsulate the Lonely brand?
It's comfortable and beautiful, with a focus on details. Fit, support, fabric, colour, thread, finish, packaging – we care about the small stuff because we know our customer cares about it to. We wanted to inject the same deliberate care we take with our product into our interior space.
What are you working on at the moment?
International markets have taken strongly to Lonely, so it makes real sense for us to continue exploration of retail within different regions.
Lonely in Ponsonby is:
30 Ponsonby Road
Or online here.
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