How to make it in fashion

By Zoe Walker

Footwear designer Kathryn Wilson. Photo / Tony Drayton
Footwear designer Kathryn Wilson. Photo / Tony Drayton

In 2002 Viva featured a young woman with ambitions of being an internationally renowned shoe designer. Kathryn Wilson had won an AMP scholarship and used it to produce her very first pair of shoes, showcasing early a resolve to make it. "I'm determined to succeed and there's no reason why I shouldn't," said the baby-faced designer.

A year later, Wilson established her namesake brand that has become a key part of the local industry, and marks 10 years in business with an exhibition that opens to the public tomorrow. Featuring drawings, campaigns, photographs and stories, the exhibition will look back on the highs and lows of her business - from the electric atmosphere of her first ever show at New Zealand Fashion Week to bad shipments that had to be destroyed - and celebrates those who have helped shape Wilson's brand.

This includes Beyonce, who Wilson describes as an inspiration to women in business: last week the superstar posted a photo on Instagram of Wilson's shoes, another step towards international recognition. What a birthday present.


As she celebrates 10 years in business, Wilson shares what she has learned along the way:

1. Stay true to your brand values and don't get swayed by others' opinions or trends in businesses around you. If you believe in your own vision and strategy based on passion and gut instincts, the decisions are made easily for the right reasons.

2. Believe in your vision and your team. Be your own biggest fan and make others around you feel like they are part of an exciting future you are creating for the business. A shared vision creates a contagious energy that makes the team feel involved in the outcome.

3. Make use of mentors around you who are offering help or advice. There is a lot to be said of learning from those who have already made the mistakes for you. Stop and listen to the experts and don't try and be everything to everyone when others can do it better.

4. Celebrate the successes along the way . . . big or small. By stopping to acknowledge events or goals that have been achieved, you make the hard times feel worth it. I'm a big believer of toasting good news with a flute of champagne and a wee dance.

5. Remember to laugh along the way and take the time out to enjoy the ride. Often you prioritise work commitments throughout the week and weekends and life passes you by . . . Now that I'm in my 30s it has become more important to spend time with friends who are starting their own families and, of course, my own family, who have always been there for support and a giggle. It puts everything into perspective when you have a good work/life balance.


• Kathryn Wilson: Ten Year Retrospective, Saatchi & Saatchi Gallery, The Strand, Parnell. Until December 5.

- VIVA

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