Rob Kidd is a NZME. News Service court reporter based in Auckland.

Federation clothing brand back from the brink

Jenny Joblin is the founder of fashion label Federation. Photo / Supplied
Jenny Joblin is the founder of fashion label Federation. Photo / Supplied

The woman behind one of New Zealand's top fashion labels has sold her house to wrestle back the company from liquidators.

Fifteen years after establishing the Federation brand, Jenny Joblin was before Auckland District Court charged with defrauding Customs. Last week she pleaded guilty to three representative charges.

The business was in the hands of liquidators in February.

Liquidator McDonald Vague, in a report filed with the Companies Office, said ASB Bank was owed just over $1 million of secured debt by Federation.

"I realised how iconic it was to the country and how much a part of me it was," Joblin said.

So she sold her house.

Joblin told the Herald on Sunday everything she made from sale was used to pay back the bank and creditors, and on April 1 the company belonged to her again.

But before she could consider a fresh start, the criminal charges still had to be dealt with.

"It was really draining, especially with trying to get Federation going again.

"I didn't want anything hanging over," she said.

The prosecution told the court last week the undervaluing of goods was such that the company avoided paying more than $680,000, but Judge David Sharp accepted any shortfall would be paid.

The judge gave Joblin credit for her clean record and "good character".

"You are a person who is worthwhile and produces materials for people and uses skills that you have in a way that is consistent with being a good citizen, despite this mistake," he said.

Joblin was fined $40,000 and although she had admitted the allegations against her, she called it the "pragmatic approach".

I'm not trying to take on the world any more. We did have a lot of stores in Europe and when I broke it down it was a break-even exercise at best.
Jenny Joblin

It could have cost her a six-figure sum in legal fees had she taken the matter to trial, she said.

Joblin believed the issues arose because documentation was going straight from the factory to the shipping agent.

With the new incarnation of the business there was a lot more reporting and accountability, she said. And one of her first new appointments was a "really good" financial controller.

Joblin also admitted part of Federation's downfall may have been a determination to expand and grow the brand. "I'm not trying to take on the world any more," she said.

"At one stage we did have a lot of stores in Europe and when I broke it down it was a break-even exercise at best."

Now she was focusing on the two stores in Takapuna and Onehunga, as well as the 70 retailers around the country to whom they supplied garments.

"I just want to make amazing clothes people love," Joblin said.

And she had not sat on her hands while the financial vultures appeared to be circling.

The winter range was launched almost immediately after she got the business back and next summer's range was all sorted, Joblin said.

When charges were first laid against her in December, she spoke to the Herald from Los Angeles where she had just married.

"Though it wasn't great timing, it was kind of nice to have my favourite people around me at that celebration," she said.

"For certain personality types it's easy to go 'what's next?'

"At this stage I'm appreciating what I've got."

- Herald on Sunday

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