Amber Whitecliffe farewells the New Zealand fashion industry for now as her eponymous retail outlet prepares for its final days. Whitecliffe sat down with Apparel Magazine to reflect upon her five years of operation in the heart of Parnell.
Whitecliffe first opened the doors of her Parnell flagship in 2014 and grew her offering from womenswear to the bridal market, becoming the go-to location for bridesmaids and mother of the bride dresses. With such a diverse expansion over the short time of her store’s operation, she shared that one of the most fundamental lessons she has learned during her time in the industry is to simply roll with the punches. “You have to be prepared for the fact that no matter how much forecasting and planning you do; retail can be a fickle rollercoaster that you just can’t predict.” It is not only the internal shifts of her company which impacted her operations, but Whitecliffe also shared that to be successful in retail one must be truly aware of the erratic behaviours of the industry and be prepared for shifts in the market. “You have to accept that there are external factors such as weather and current events that can have a huge impact upon sales and you often don’t know if that impact will be good or bad,” she explained. “Fashion, technology and our society are changing daily, and you need to be able to respond quickly.”
While the retail industry certainly has its challenges, Whitecliffe admitted that it also came with a great deal of satisfaction, mainly through the direct engagement she was able to have with her customers. “I have enjoyed the boutique vibe and providing clothing that I am able to offer the service of fitting it to women’s unique figures,” she divulged. Working directly with her seamstresses to create custom fits has been a highlight for the designer as she was able to create a one of a kind experiences for her customers while celebrating the immense creativity of herself and her team. “Knowing that customers are not going to bump into someone else with the same dress and that they will receive compliments all day while wearing my designs,” Whitecliffe shared was simply an amazing feeling. “You have to really have a passion for [retail] and be excited to get up every day and do it. That fire in your belly is what will keep you going no matter what challenges you face.”
With the impending closure of her eponymous label, Whitecliffe shared her appreciation for the support she has received from throughout the industry. “When I announced my closure, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the heartfelt messages I received. It bought me to tears knowing just how much my garments and service have affected my customers.” Whitecliffe was also able to share her personal insights regarding the future of the fashion industry in New Zealand. “Fashion is a girl’s best friend. It will always be there. I do fear a lot of New Zealand made fashion will continue to drop off as it is incredibly hard to make it work here. I highly commend those who continue to do so.”