Bevan Hurley

Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Fashion store out of style

Entrepreneur loses shirt as fashionistas move on to different designer gear.

A model wearing a swimsuit from the Ed Hardy line at the 2009 launch in Auckland. The store owned by Warren Hignett (inset) has since been shut after falling out of favour with wealthy clients. Photo / Norrie Montgomery/Facebook
A model wearing a swimsuit from the Ed Hardy line at the 2009 launch in Auckland. The store owned by Warren Hignett (inset) has since been shut after falling out of favour with wealthy clients. Photo / Norrie Montgomery/Facebook

The Ed Hardy fashion line was briefly the label du jour of New Zealand celebrities. But when the American designer-wear fell out of favour with wealthy clients, it cost entrepreneur Warren Hignett his store.

Hignett said he also suffered problems with the Australian distributor. On Friday, his company George and Henry Holdings was placed in liquidation.

Now his $1.7 million Coromandel property overlooking Tairua is up for mortgagee sale on Wednesday by Bayleys.

According to former friends, Hignett, 44, had a taste for fast cars and holidays. He took girlfriend Rochelle "Rocky" Kilmartin to the Maldives.

A corporate high-flyer, Hignett worked for the late Michael Erceg's alcohol company Independent Liquor.

He was one of 15 employees who inherited substantial sums when Erceg died in a helicopter crash in 2005.

Hignett plunged the cash into the business and properties.

He bought the New Zealand licence to sell Ed Hardy clothes and launched the store in 2009 amid a blaze of publicity.

Ferraris emblazoned with the Ed Hardy logo lined Quay St and bodypainted models and socialites went to glitzy parties.

Hignett spoke of plans to open stores in Queenstown and Wellington.

But fickle fashionistas soon tired of the Ed Hardy line. Hignett changed the store's name to Branded, but the new store did not succeed.

Ricardo Simich, a PR consultant for Hignett, said he "proudly wore it for a little while. Some people lived in it."

Simich said he was still owed around $10,000. "He [Hignett] was quite charming but also a hard taskmaster."

Hignett said: "It could only ever be great for six months. And by that stage the brand was on its last legs."

He left the premises early last year owing landlords Westfield a substantial amount in unpaid rent.

Westfield general manager shopping centre management Linda Trainer said Westfield's negotiations and leasing arrangements with all lessees were confidential.

"The Ed Hardy store has been closed for some time and the tenancy is leased," she said.

Hignett admitted he had come on difficult times but said he wanted to pay all of his creditors. He rejected claims he had been living a lavish lifestyle and ignoring creditors.

"I haven't had a holiday in years," he said.

Hignett said he was unaware his company had been placed into liquidation and he promised he would make good on his debts.

"My lawyer is in the process of redistributing funds," he said. "It's my intention that all of my creditors are paid."

- Herald on Sunday

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