Retail, Innovation and Manufacturing reporter for the NZ Herald

From sewing clothes for classmates to Fashion Week star

Designer Turet Knuefermann has big ambitions for her TK label
Fashion designer Turet Knuefermann.
Fashion designer Turet Knuefermann.

Fashion Week regular Turet Knuefermann's advice to aspiring designers: "Be ready to fly by the seat of your pants and never stop - you won't get bored."

Eleven years ago Knuefermann was making herself clothes to wear at university but growing demand from friends led her to set up fashion brand TK and take on the cut-throat world of fashion.

It was a tough time, she says.

"The first few years going solo, I needed to be the best sewer, best patternmaker, best salesperson and best accountant I could be. It was a great experience, but limited."

Growing up in Hamilton, she always knew she wanted to be in the creative industry - whether it was art or fashion.

After completing a bachelor of arts in languages and management at Auckland University, Knuefermann took a pattern-making and garment-assembly course at AUT, while also studying basic accounting in the evenings.

As requests for garments increased, she realised the potential of the business and at the end of 2005 the first TK store opened in the trendy Auckland suburb of Ponsonby.

"It's a million times easier [now] with a great team and better resources," Knuefermann says."Of course new challenges arise with growth as previous ones fade, but it's absolutely a far more exciting situation to be in when the business is more evolved."

The fashion industry is notoriously tough and getting a foot in the door can be hard, with many trying and failing to break into the competitive space.

Knuefermann's story is one that many Kiwi designers can relate to, with Kate Sylvester and Karen Walker among a number to detail the sleepless nights, multi-tasking and jack-of-all-trades skills required to succeed as a budding designer.

"I was lucky enough to enjoy learning about business as much as I love creating garments," Knuefermann says.

"One definitely doesn't stand without the other. One of my first wholesale clients once advised, 'Fashion is the biggest hole you can sink your money into if you don't know what you're doing' - I always remember his words and need not to take for granted that like all businesses, it requires constant attention and dedication on all levels."

Knuefermann seems to have been lucky enough to have both. Every year for the first seven years of the business, turnover doubled, something she says provided challenges but also inspired her energy and drive through different stages of the wholesale and retail process and then finally store development and expansion.

NZ Fashion Week has constantly evolved and has been ahead of the curve with a number of initiatives like the introduction of NZ Fashion Weekend six years ago.

The brand is now just over 10 years old and Knuefermann has already planned out what the decade will look like.

Her proudest moment was expanding into the new Fanshawe St store, which she says is on an international scale and acts as a clothing gallery as well as an event and show venue.

Now in her seventh year of showing at Fashion Week, Knuefermann will this year launch Shop the Runway - a trend that has been extremely popular overseas and one that is likely to take off in New Zealand as well.

"Shop the Runway is our medium to involve the public in the excitement of Fashion Week at the same time as creating awareness for our new store with its unconventional access from 29 Graham St and through the champagne bar," Knuefermann says.

A runaway show during NZ Fashion Week. Photo / Viva
A runaway show during NZ Fashion Week. Photo / Viva

"Shop the Runway will allow people to order catwalk garments for pickup two to three weeks later, as well as selected shown styles being available for sale on the spot."

Knuefermann is one of more than 80 designers who will show at this year's Fashion Week - the highlight of the social fashion calendar and a chance for designers to display their new season's collections.

About 35,000 people are expected to attend this year, up from 30,000 last year. The event has also managed to secure another major sponsor in New Zealand Post, which is partnering with the Miromoda showcase - a show which supports up-and-coming Maori designers.

The company joins the likes of Ateed, Fashion Quarterly and Mercedes-Benz - which has this year chosen design duo Harman Grubisa as its Mercedes-Benz Presents designer.

The week-long event has a new management structure this year, with Anna Hood, Vinny Sherry and Lance O' Grady working alongside Pieter Stewart - who founded the event 16 years ago. The trio have worked on Fashion Week for a number of years and Sherry said they were excited to continue growing and contributing to the event.

Be ready to fly by the seat of your pants and never stop - you won't get bored.

"NZ Fashion Week has constantly evolved and has been ahead of the curve with a number of initiatives like the introduction of NZ Fashion Weekend six years ago - a model that has only just been adopted at [international fashion events] around the world," Sherry said. "This new management team will work together to keep evolving the event."

Knuefermann says she is looking forward to this year's event as a chance to showcase the brand to local and international press.

The cost of putting on a show is not insignificant but is justified by the opportunity to get in front of the fashion world, she says.

In rare moments when she is not working on the business, Knuefermann has her feet up with a Campari or icecream in hand and when she can find it, in the sun. Her 5-week-old also keeps her busy but 10 years on, she is still managing to keep a work-life balance.

"Love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life," she says. "As cliched as it is, this is how I run my business, one flows into the other, and I mould my work to create a lifestyle that I love."

Turet Knuefermann:

Age: 43

Partner: Danilo David (photographer)

Children: Ayrton, 5 weeks old

Last book you read: The Gospel According to Chanel

Dream holiday: Brazil

Toughest thing you've ever done: Public speaking

Fashion week:

• Starts Monday at locations around Auckland (

• 35,000 people expected, up from 30,000 last year

• More than 80 designers presenting

• More than 20% of attendees from outside Auckland

• Approximately 2250 garments will be shown

• About 950 models across the shows.

• Cost to put on a show can range from $3000 to more than $17,000

Viva Fashion Week Coverage

- NZ Herald

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