Ministering to the fashion faithful
Kylee Davis and Jason Gitmans have sewn together a solid business partnership with the goal of creating New Zealands next iconic global fashion label. By editor Glenn Baker.
Jason Gitmans was in China with his import manager when he heard the news that Kylee Daviss company Insidious Fix was in rough waters. Jokingly his first reaction was lets buy out the company!
As it turned out, Davis and Gitmans ended up approaching each other, and after a couple of months due diligence to, as Gitmans describes it, put everything in black and white, the deal was sealed. Stitch Ministry was born the fashion industry has witnessed the joining of two great talents: Davis, one of this countrys most respected and celebrated designers, and Gitmans, a man who has spent many years involved in manufacturing, logistics, quality control and global marketing techniques with the Gitmans Knitwear brand his father established more than 30 years ago. He also has an eye for identifying international trends.
Its now barely five months into the partnership and retailers are already asking to stock the Stitch Ministry brand. Theres respect for Kylees talent and they can see the brands direction, says Gitmans. He says the company has achieved a great deal since it was launched, in the areas of financial stability, governance, reliability and strong back-end systems. Theres an air of solidarity about this partnership although theyd known each other for a long time, both parties were keen to have everything legally stitched up from the outset factoring in worst case scenarios and exit strategies. They formed a board consisting of four members that brought marketing, production, design and financial skills to the table.
Gitmans says its neat that when he compares his weaknesses with Daviss strengths and vice versa there are amazing synergies. Kylee definitely wears the designer hat, and mine says business management; thats strategy, finance, production and all the back end stuff.
Over the years Gitmans Knitwear has scaled back production in New Zealand, and switched to Chinese factories, so its no surprise that Stitch Ministry is following the same business model. Gitmans says clothing manufacture in New Zealand has progressively become more difficult as labour costs have risen, and service companies along with raw materials have increasingly become in short supply. He says even the worlds top clothing brands are now largely made in China.
To source innovative cutting-edge raw materials, fabrics, yarns and accessories, you simply cant beat the Chinese, he says. China has long been the melting pot of fashion and the Chinese are highly skilled, creative, artistic people plus they offer incredible scalability of production.
Gitmans has spent many years perfecting the art of selecting partners and procuring raw materials in China and now works with around ten carefully selected factories. His advice for other clothing companies is to first get involved with a sourcing company that is already working with the Chinese. Start by using Hong Kong-based agents they understand the market, particularly around the Shanghai area.
He warns that the Chinese have a very different way of conducting business and are good at promises. He also says there is a vast difference in the standard of factories, ranging from older, volume-orientated factories in northern China, to state-of-the-art Westernised facilities in south China and closer to Hong Kong.
The superlatives roll off Gitmans lips as he describes the Stitch Ministry experience. He believes its a brand that not only represents good clothing and good values, but it is a total experience that stimulates all your senses.
Its about immersing all your senses. Our USP is smart, sexy, provocative, yet affordable, he says.
Stitch Ministry is a clothing culture, says Gitmans, and with a gallery built into its stylish Onehunga premises, its one that believes in supporting young local artists. So while their sights are firmly set on the global fashion community, Gitmans and Davis are conscious of feeding the local community as well.
Both partners have global business acumen and firmly believe they are up to the task of taking Stitch Ministry to the world. For Gitmans the immediate challenge lies in overseeing the logistics of the operational aspects of approaching markets in America, Europe and Australia concurrently with the brands foray into the local fashion market.
Davis sees Stitch Ministry as a fashion movement that will connect forward-fashion followers all over the world. It is exciting to be back creating and producing high quality affordable garments that inspire.
Theres no doubt that the fashion industry is for the young or at least the young-at-heart. Gitmans describes it as a dynamic fast-changing business (faster than the computer industry) and new designers must remain realistic, practical in their thinking, and be prepared to work hard.
Its not just about designing, you need the whole business package, which usually involves getting on board with someone else, he says.
Gitmans owes much of his business acumen and principles to his father and mentor Paul and believes that any business should be built around the cornerstones of honesty, integrity and professionalism. He says success can be based on something as basic as always paying your bills on time, and its about standing behind your brand motivating and inspiring your team. Creating the dream and encouraging your people to help create it too.
Company culture is so important, says Gitmans. Stitch Ministry is always buzzing and we make a point of investing back into our staff as much as we can.
With an eye on work/life balance and spending time with his two young boys, Gitmans revels in the challenges of the fashion industry, and wont have a bar of any negative talk about New Zealands economy. When the talkback gets negative on the radio he reaches for the off button.
All that negative stuff is just rubbish there is no down side to living and working in this country. We need to celebrate our successes and recognise those entrepreneurs who are willing to take a risk.
Meanwhile back at the Onehunga HQ building theres a new baby (Davis and marketing manager Mat Rankin are the proud parents), an 80-piece collection to market, and a burning desire to minister to thousands of fashion faithful around the world. NZB
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