Cover Story: What drives Ms Boshier?
Enormously talented, ambitious, and with a bubbly enthusiasm – Lucie Boshier epitomises a new breed of emerging young fashion entrepreneurs in this country. Glenn Baker discovers what drives this savvy young business woman.
Newmarket’s Nuffield Street is a little bit, well, for want of a better word…posh. For serious ‘big ticket’ fashion aficionados it’s a definite destination. Described as “29 hand-picked, international and local fashion brands, chic eateries and lifestyle stores” by its landlord (which surprisingly is the mall giant Westfield), Nuffield Street has become a mini fashion hub of New Zealand – our equivalent to Milan’s Via Montenapoleone perhaps? And there in the midst of this stylish and sophisticated streetscape sits a boutique that speaks rather more loudly than its neighbours. The hot pink signature emblazoned across the front windows says it all – Shop 18, 2-10 Nuffield Street is the outrageous home of Lucie Boshier, one of the hottest new designers on the local fashion scene; one with a burning desire to make a name for herself around the world. Once inside I’m immediately impressed by the colour and vibrancy of the store. Boshier informs me that it has a touch of San Francisco circa 1969 about it – an era she draws inspiration from. I’m no fashion expert by any stretch of the imagination, so I had to rely on Lucie to describe her clothing. She rattles off words such as ‘colourful’, ‘flamboyant’, ‘cheeky’ and ‘sexy’. And she describes her brand as ‘controversial’ and ‘edgy’. My first impression of Boshier is one of confidence and determination – she is a talented designer sure, but also a young business woman not afraid to work hard, push the boundaries and seek advice from industry leaders and mentors when necessary. She is quite open about making the most of every opportunity to fast-track her business to where it is today. So how did it all begin? Has fashion always been Lucie’s passion? Not surprisingly, she has been designing clothes since the age of eight. Boshier remembers feeling a “bit of an outcast” at Epsom’s up-market Diocesan School for Girls, and left in a hurry at age 16 to pursue her fashion career at the Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design. She admits she was now addicted to fashion, and her career received a major boost when she met iconic designer Patrick Steel during her studies. He offered the now 18-year-old a job as his assistant and opened a number of doors within the fashion retail industry. Boshier will always value Steel’s support during that four year period. “Working for Patrick was really my big break into the fashion scene. He is incredibly talented and I was very lucky to have learnt from the very best!” A trip to New York, one of her favourite cities, proved to be a defining moment for Boshier – suddenly her dream of opening her own shop took on a new urgency. Upon her return, and after six months searching for a suitable lease, she opened in the Auckland suburb of Kingsland – presenting her first collection in the Winter of 2004, after hand-stitching every garment and many late nights. Disaster struck just three weeks after opening when in a highly publicised case, thieves stripped the Kingsland store. The clothes were never found. “That was incredibly heart-breaking – I felt absolutely violated,” recalls Boshier. Nuffield St beckons It was boredom that prompted Boshier to move to Nuffield Street in 2006 – a move she regards as the platform for launching her global empire. Jack Cooper, husband of Trelise Cooper, had suggested the move as a means to moving the business forward. Trelise had earlier been one of five “industry leaders” Boshier had approached for advice on growing her brand. The Coopers were immediately impressed by Lucie’s “infectious enthusiasm” and big ambitions, and quickly leant their support (they also mentor other young designers). “Lucie has had to learn that the fashion business is ten percent glamour and fun and 90 percent damn hard work,” says Jack Cooper. He says while Lucie is fortunate to have her parents’ backing (both parents have business backgrounds), it is still up to her to make her business work and create her own individual brand awareness. “She has had to do a lot of the work herself and this is a 24/7 business,” says Cooper. Boshier is amazed at the help that’s out there for business start-ups. “Everyone has helped me beyond my expectations.” She admits that, without that help, her destination may have been the same, but it would have taken a lot longer and probably involved a different path. Big challenges As for business challenges, finding the right staff is always a major one. “They must have the whole buzz; they have to be passionate about the Lucie Boshier brand.” Managing cash flow is another area that requires real skill. “It’s difficult striking a balance between how much to spend and where. I stick to very tight budgets which help financially, but creatively can be very draining.” Rather than spending up large on advertising Boshier creates interest around her brand by feeding the media “positive messages, courageous statements and just being myself”. “I also work with other small businesses on projects where we can both expose our brands through sponsorship. It’s a great way of meeting people in a similar position to you and growing your business with them. That ‘I’ll pat your back, you pat mine’ concept lifts people up and drives business in a positive way.” Boshier admits that it is only now that she is facing some of her greatest challenges in business. “I love designing fashion, but as I’ve got into it I’ve realised that there is so much negativity and sadness caused by the industry and fashion designers. It’s sometimes difficult to have the courage to stand up to the traditions of the fashion industry, and challenge the way things are done. “Unfortunately many of the fashion media I rely on to help promote me also stand up for everything I am against. Last year four models died from anorexia in South America, yet the industry continues to hire models as young as 12. It’s sick, and I’m determined to make a positive impact through fashion.” Boshier is not afraid to take a stand on certain issues concerning the industry and has produced several controversial posters in support of this – one in particular takes the mickey out of the industry’s widespread obsession with the colour black. Boshier has had her fair share of critics – that’s the nature of the fashion industry and is to be expected – but she has that ‘never give up’ attitude in bucket-loads. “You work your butt off seven days a week and you have to really, really want it to succeed, because there’s not a lot of money in it to begin with. Boshier is inspired by the likes of Karen Walker and Trelise Cooper who have built big brands here and offshore. “All sorts of people who’ve been successful and innovative in some way inspire me – even people that I don’t necessarily like. I can still admire their business sense, courage and imagination. I love seeing people use their business to challenge the traditions of what went before before them – that’s what I call true entrepreneurship.” Boshier is also influenced by edgy photographer David LaChapelle’s work, business people such as “the Hell Pizza guys”, Geoff Ross and Richard Branson, and places such as New York and Mexico, which she visited as a child. “Most people who make it really big in business are so often a bit mad. I love that raw passion and determination. As for me – I don’t really know what drives me – it’s bizarre, I just really want it.” Boshier may see herself as somewhat crazy, and she thinks that her customers probably live outside the square too. “Typically they’re in their late 30s/early 40s, two kids, confident, well travelled and somewhat ‘arty’.” But having said that, she says her clothes appeal to all ages. Big dreams Before Boshier moved to Nuffield Street, Trelise Cooper told her to draw her dream shop. She did this, and just six months later she was living the dream. She had to be careful with her budget when it came to fittings, but despite this, according to many visitors and customers, she has ‘the coolest shop in Auckland’. Today her dreams are much bigger – her ultimate goal is to have a chain of Lucie Boshier department stores all over the world. “They will have running water, lots of fresh plants, outdoor seating, fantastic coffee, interesting books, clothing for women and men, lingerie, cosmetics, food and beverage and any other products I decide to adopt or design. Meanwhile, Boshier admits that it’s a tough industry. “You have to want it so much. The tricky part is that many designers who are truly talented are not so business focused. When I started my business I had no idea how much I needed to know on all levels. You have to be mutli-talented and work like crazy. If you want something enough it will be yours for the taking. People who have that innate drive to succeed just do it!” Boshier knows she has to constantly think outside the box when it comes to building her brand. She has plans to start selling from her website (www.lucieboshier.com) and this year showcased her designs at Air New Zealand Fashion Week for the first time. She has mixed views about the event: “It depends on what you’re trying to achieve. There’s a public perception that if you’re involved in Fashion Week then you’ve ‘made it’. The reality is that it is an expensive event that any designer can choose to be a part of. It definitely helped build my profile – although it was a little different for me because I was showing to the public, not for the trade.” Boshier is undecided on whether she will be heavily involved in future Fashion Weeks. “I love the excitement and supporting the local fashion industry. I’ll have to weigh up whether it is the best business decision for me for the future.” www.lucieboshier.com Glenn Baker is editor of NZBusiness.