BMW: 1 Series snug fit for designer


How many shoeboxes can you fit in the boot of a new BMW 1 Series? Fifty, says New Zealand's leading shoe designer, Kathryn Wilson, and she should know.

When she moved her pop-up store, which looks like a giant shoebox, from Britomart in downtown Auckland to the City Works Depot in the city's central CBD last week, she had to move stock.

So, out came the rear shelf in Wilson's 1 Series, and in popped 50 shoeboxes for the 10-minute drive. "It was impressive," says Wilson.

What also is impressive is that Wilson is a BMW Ambassador at the age of only 32. She was approached by BMW New Zealand last year to promote the 1 Series as her clients - women aged 25 to 40 - were the target demographic for the five-door hatchback.

She has two shoe brands - the exclusive, limited-run Kathryn Wilson range and her youth line Miss Wilson - plus is a major proponent of using social media to interact with her clients, a factor that also attracted BMW NZ when it approached her for the role.

"The car fits my brand - it's a premium alignment and it's a nice association. It was a seamless fit and it's a cool car," says Wilson.

She has the cars at events held throughout the year - from VIP viewings to fashion shows - to next week's Clicquot in the Snow festival in Queenstown. On Friday July 27, Wilson will hold a fashion show for not only her shoes but also her new swimwear line designed with Emma Ford.

"For the Fashion Festival at Britomart in February we used a raised catwalk through the atrium of Ernst Young Westpac building and it was open to the public - and 400 seated guests. At the entrance to that event were two 1 Series at an angle to the Kathryn Wilson brand. The cars had their headlights on and were announcing the start of the show," she says.

As part of role she also gets to drive a white 1 Series 1.8-litre diesel - with the Kathryn Wilson logo on the doors - and the vehicle also suits her lifestyle, as well as her brand.

"I live in central Auckland and work in the CBD. I can easily park the car, and it's a great car to zip in and out of Ponsonby Rd," she laughs.

"I love my car because it's quite racy. The car was pitched to me by BMW as for the 'girl about town' so I was really excited because it's very fitting for me at the moment."

But Wilson doesn't just use it for zipping around Auckland - she used it for a road trip to Cape Kidnappers for New Year.

"I drove down on my own from Auckland to Napier and used the satnav system to get me there, and had my playlist on the iPod that I'd synced up through Bluetooth with the stereo system," she explains.

"The car only used 1 tanks of gas - that is an impressive feature of the diesel car."

She also loads up the 1 Series for weekends away at her mother's Coromandel bach - a location she's been driving to since she first learnt to drive.

"My first car was a restored red 1967 California VW Beetle. I grew up in Papakura and worked at the local supermarket to pay for half of the car. My mum paid the rest," she says.

"I'd drive it to Mum's bach but she was so worried about it that she'd drive behind me to make sure I made it."

After two years her mum made her sell it and, while studying for a bachelor of design at Wellington, she owned two VW Golfs before buying a Volvo station wagon to use for transporting her shoes after launching her range in 2003.

Her business grew internationally, due to help from her mentors Caroline and Lloyd Sills, and now the brand has 35 stockists in Australia and in February this year the Kathryn Wilson range began selling at Hong Kong's famous IT department store.

When Wilson's not driving her 1 Series around Auckland, she's overseas visiting her suppliers in Italy, China, Portugal, Spain and Romania who hand-make her shoes and boots.

But it's in Japan that Wilson finds her design inspiration.

Though maybe her next trip should be to Germany where she can add her design flair to the interior of a 1 Series?

- Hamilton News

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