Q&A: Aro’s Emily and Charles
Husband and wife musical duo Aro’s upcoming bilingual EP He Manu Anō celebrates tales and melodies of Aotearoa’s native birds. Emily and Charles ...
Rickie Dee and James Rigden started contemporary fashion boutique Superette when they were 21. Two decades later, they've accumulated a fair amount of business wisdom.
Congratulations on 20 years in business! Did you ever think Superette would go this far?
Rickie: Thank you! To be honest, I don’t think we really thought about it. We were always taking it day by day. Not forecasting for the future in any way. We did have a lot of odds against us, being young, doing something that was so new and fresh, being in the back streets. But we were so motivated to do what we could to make it work.
James: There were a lot of lessons learnt before we learnt how to forecast. That first decade was really about figuring it all out. I remember there was someone that was overheard saying “These guys won’t make it past six months,” and that really fuelled the fire to keep going and prove them wrong.
When could you say “Superette is a success”?
R: I don’t think success is ever an end point, it’s always a journey. I don’t think you ever go “Right, we’re there.” When you get out of those challenging early days, things like being able to pay bills, having a strong team and understanding who we were as a brand were certainly stepping stones to being successful.
J: Definitely being able to pay the bills is a good one. Ha! There was definitely a moment there when we stopped chasing the brands and the brands started chasing us. It was really cool when brands came to us and also when people started wanting to work for us. When you can employ people that you want to employ with the right skillset that can take the business to the next level, that is really exciting.
What’s a trend you miss?
R: There’s nothing we really miss. A big part of fashion really is about the trends that come and go. At the time, they were really exciting. Even looking back at a printed jean – like the leopard jean – that had a real moment, they were so great at the time.
It’s probably fair to say you’ve helped nurture some brands onto the Kiwi fashion scene. Do any hold a special place in your heart?
R: All of our brands hold a special place in our heart regardless of whether it’s an established or emerging brand. Zoe & Morgan is a good example of a significant Kiwi brand we’ve worked with for a long time, right from the beginning. Deadly Ponies was another – we really grew together. We were the first stockist of Deadly Ponies and it was an iconic brand within our store for many years.
J: Stolen Girlfriends Club was another brand we worked with for years really closely. I remember the ‘Relax’ tee, it was major. Just Another Fisherman is another brand more recently. It certainly is a big part of what we like to do – building that relationship with our brands, telling their story and growing with them.
How do you pick items for the store?
J: Always asking ourselves whether we would want it ourselves.
R: We’ve also come to know our customer really well and understand who we are buying it for. Also, ensuring the curation of our product is just right so we’re providing the best possible experience for our customers.
Online shopping has been massive the last couple of years. Do you think you’ll ever leave bricks and mortar behind?
R: No, never. They’re where we came from, where it all started. We’re passionate about the tangible, tactile experience of the store and having the synergy of both an online and brick-and-mortar store is really important.
J: People often go out and shop for their own entertainment. It's an experience and it’s nice to get away from that digital screen every now and again. For us, we will always invest in our stores and be constantly improving our fitouts and looking for new locations.
Favourite piece of fashion this winter season?
R: A Camilla and Marc trench coat or Anine Bing Kaia Blazer.
J: A puffer jacket by The North Face or a Helmut Lang sweater.
Hottest brand right now?
R: Our in-house brand is performing well for us, but it will never take over our store. We always want to be a multi-branded store. There’s also some really exciting top-tier designers that we have introduced in our Superette International store with the likes of Max Mara, A.P.C, Alexander Wang and more to come. Our brand offering at Superette International is made up of those top-tier established designers from every corner of the globe. It’s a different product selection than what’s on offer in our core Superette stores.
J: We’ve introduced some really exciting new men’s brands, as this is a space we’re really trying to grow. It’s exciting to have some of those well-known key brands like The North Face, Ralph Lauren Polo, Carhartt, Maison Kitsuné and more to come.
If you could give the world one style tip, what would it be?
R: Don’t try to force it. Wear something that feels comfortable and true to you.
J: Wear whatever makes you feel good.
What’s your must-have accessory?
R: An Alexander Wang bag.
J: A cap or a duffel bag.
What are you planning for the next year?
R: Off the back of Covid we’ve actually had a really collaborative month within the business. We’re in the process of resetting and setting ourselves up for the year. It’s exciting to get moving again. It means we can go and see our designers and reconnect with them and go and discover new brands. We’re also celebrating 20 years of being in business.
J: New brands, new fitouts, new stores, expanding the brand mix online and celebrating our 20-year anniversary of Superette.
And the next 20 years?
J: Like from day one, who knows where we will be but we’re definitely not stopping and we’ll continue to innovate, create and be better than yesterday.