Grey Lynn-based garment producer MN Uniform caters to the hospitality industry. Founder and designer Matt Nash reveals the motivations behind his business.
A brief description of the business?
MN Uniform produces bespoke and ready to wear uniforms and leather goods for the hospitality industry.
What gave you the idea for the business?
MN Uniform was a way to package together my life-long fascination with workwear and my love of food and hospitality. The hospitality scene in New Zealand is burgeoning at the moment and we are producing many world class eateries, wineries and bars.
I started creating a few uniforms for friends that were starting restaurants, and very quickly through word of mouth this became a full-time thing. I've worked extensively in hospitality from waitering to concept development for new restaurants and have made my fair share of flat whites.
How has the business changed since you started up two and a half years ago?
Up until eight months ago it was just me doing everything but as of this week I now have two part-time staff as well.
Contract staff are brought into the studio when we are completing larger jobs.
Earlier this year we moved into a new space as we were running out of room and needed a showroom space to meet with clients.
Are you a fashion designer and how did you get in to the industry?
I have worked within the New Zealand fashion industry from the age of 19.
I studied fashion design at AUT in Auckland. The majority of my time has been spent within menswear and accessory design. I worked as a made to measure cutter and tailoring. The moment everything clicked for me was when I undertook post graduate study - it was research around the New Zealand male identity and the role that workwear plays in understanding this.
I love workwear and love vintage clothing. The reason behind every pocket, stitch and garment detail satisfies my need to know the reason for everything.
How does the garment design process work?
Consultation with the client is the first step, we meet in person or over the phone and chat about what their needs are for their team. I research their inspiration (my favourite part, rummaging through vintage reference books) and develop a concept that works well with their team and space.
From there I sketch and style looks for the client's approval.
In the studio we then produce physical samples and conduct fittings. Each client's uniform is a sort of mini collection, that is sometimes fully bespoke, but more often is styled with existing garments for the MN sample range.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
The biggest challenge has been learning the business side of what I do.
Tax obligations and cashflow are things that you can definitely not design your way through. I'm lucky now to work with a great accountant and a skilled business adviser who has got me on the right track with both these things.
How many items of clothing do you make per week/month?
On average we would produce about 100 aprons, 40 shirts and 10 leather bags or luggage per month as well as smaller units of different uniform styles.
What are your long-term plans for MN Uniform?
I'm really excited for the future. We have a selection of new styles that we'll be releasing soon, and we're planning a fabric sourcing trip to secure new clothes for the range. I'm also really excited to be launching a premium line of elevated workwear and luggage that will be under the name of MATT NASH.
I would also love to introduce the MN work brand to an international audience and open a retail store selling both brands.
What advice would you give to other small business operators?
Find a group or network of other business owners where you can have honest conversations about how hard business can be sometimes.
Sharing business mistakes and miss-steps with others can be the best way to problem solve and build a sense of community around your business.
Who are some of your clients?
Odettes, Orphans Kitchen, Amisfield, Bolaven, Beirut, Burger Burger and Azabu.