Strangers often approach Kelly Coe in public to simply say hello.

"Women come up to me all the time and the first thing they say is, 'sorry, I feel like I know you so I had to come and say hi.'

"I love that, I love that they feel they know me because it means I am relatable and that is so important."

As both the owner and face of fashion powerhouse Augustine, Coe, with her long flowing hair, endless bronzed legs and her fun, fearless approach to fashion that encourages women to ditch the black, embrace colour and live life in sequins, she has a unique blend of the inspirational 'woman you long to be' and the every day 'woman you'd love to drink wine with'.


Coe runs her social media herself, connecting with her 140,000 Facebook followers on her Augustine page.

She wears all new season samples, and posts a pic daily on Facebook in her latest outfit.
Many of the women who wear Augustine relate to 36-year-old Coe as a busy working woman, a mum juggling work and career.

"I made myself relatable, I am real, I am a mum that lives in the suburbs and I wear my clothes and will show you how to wear them. I was the first person to put my face to my social media in New Zealand fashion and asked everyday women into my life and said 'you can dress like this too'."

It is this down-to-earth befriending of women that is one of the keys to the designer's success and longevity.

Although the recognised face of the brand, Augustine is very much a joint partnership with husband Nathan,
"He is the CEO who runs the ship and I am the creative."

Just less than 10 years after starting the brand in their garage, then opening their first Augustine store in the Mount in 2009, the couple is set to open a second Augustine megastore in the Bay which will house all the labels — Augustine, of course, as well as its sister clothing labels Charlo, Stella Royal, Amaya, and Pretty Basics. She is also introducing a jeans brand — Honey Denim Jeans.

They are not letting go of her existing store either. This will become the new home to the latest baby in the House of Augustine.

While Kelly has fronted most of the brands to date, their newest brand Alaska Tees is very much Nathan's baby. Alaska Tees (named after their youngest daughter, Havana Alaska), will allow customers to explore their style in the form of bespoke T-shirts, giving shoppers the ability to customise high quality cotton tees down to the last detail.

Kelly and the girls wearing Alaska tees
Kelly and the girls wearing Alaska tees

"It is going to disrupt the T-shirt market," says Nathan, who has been developing the brand for the past 18 months, getting the designs together and nutting out the whole concept.

The Mount Alaska store will be the only dedicated concept store for the Alaska label, but the range is being launched online nationally, says Nathan.

The idea is that every woman can customise her own tee, and in a few months tees will be available for men and children too.

"People can just go on to the website and select from one of the 35 shapes, choose a colour, style of tee, then choose a design from over a thousand exclusively created images by their Alaska Tees' three graphic designers. Each change takes place on the screen instantaneously."

There's graphic tees, vintage tees, slogans, sayings and a new print will be released each day.

With graphic tees a fashion classic but particularly hot this summer, once again the Coes demonstrate their respective skills in business and design to tap into the zeitgeist. To give women what they want.

"We are always evolving and creating new product, new labels, new shows and things that our customers can get involved in. We have created a community with our Augustine followers and we make sure we always keep them engaged and interested.

We never stop creating and thinking of new ideas for the business so I think that is how we stay in the forefront of people's minds."

Coe established the brand in 2008 and as well as the Mount stores, there are other standalone stores in Ponsonby, Wellington and Newmarket as well as stocked in 70 boutiques.

Nathan oversees the design of all the stores. "The fit out for the Mount shop and all our shops is all him and his vision, he designs the stores and fits them out with his builder Mike, so the gorgeous pink marble floor in the Mount shop is his vision, back with the gold trimmings."

Coe similarly takes a hands-on approach to her labels, doing all the designing for Augustine and Charlo. She does not have an assistant.

"It's all me, they are my babies and I can't imagine allowing anyone else in on them, especially Augustine — it's too personal."

Stella Royal, her label with bigger sizes, has Mount designer Jane Pick on board, and on Amaya, her classic label, she is assisted by design school graduate Fiona.

Coe says the designs, and the labels, have evolved as her own life changed, becoming a mother of three.

"Charlo only came about when I was a mum and saw the need for it. In the beginning everything was beaded and sequined and I do less and less of that now that I am a mum. I am a working mum who likes a good social life and travel a lot, so I see needs for all different types of clothes and outfits ... and we strive to have stores that are a one-stop shop for all tastes and lifestyles."

Coe says when designing she imagines where women might wear the outfit, and how fabrics work for different occasions.

"It's about making pieces for the moments in ladies' lives. I am so lucky that my clothes get to be apart of so many special moments.

"I picture mums at school drop off in their Charlo and what would work there."

Earlier this year Coe launched her Kimono range — 30 different styles and prints of Kimono — after being inspired while on holiday in Fiji.

Pretty Basics was another range that Coe saw an increasing need for — wardrobe staples that every woman needs.

"It includes all our best-selling tops and dresses done in plain colours. It also has our amazing range of shorts and pants that women love."

The Amaya range is for those women who prefer more muted tones and classic, sophisticated styling.

But it is the original bright colour and glamour of Augustine designs that the label is best known for — with zebra stripes and florals and sequins and shimmer galore.

Coe is an advocate of wearing colour, believing that Kiwi women wear too much black.

"I feel really sad when I see a women at a party or a wedding wearing a black dress. I think of all the colours you could use to celebrate this occasion you chose black. Colour makes us smile. You see a lady in a colourful outfit and you smile, it's uplifting, it's fun and it's essential. Sunshine is colour and we are all so much happier on a sunny day than a cloudy day — it's the same with wearing colour. I have said it before that depression is rife in New Zealand, black is our national colour and we wear too much of it. There is a correlation there. Wear colour and spread the rainbow."

And if the new megastore and Alaska Tees brand was not just enough, Coe is not ruling out more labels.

Her ultimate goal is that she has a label that covers every part of a woman's wardrobe.

"We like to do things in the marketplace that other people aren't necessarily doing well and we can see a gap. I want to be the number one go-to label for women in New Zealand and I think we've [already] captured a massive market of that."

Despite the "hard graft" in running a business and constantly growing, Coe always puts being a mum first to baby Havana, and older daughters Indiana, 8, and Demi, 6.

"It's busy but it is manageable now. I am no different to any mum with a fulltime job, easier in some ways as I can pop out whenever I choose to go to watch the girls run the cross country or dance in a show. I don't know if there is such a thing as work-life balance. We will always work more than we live I think, but what matters is that the girls don't grow up before our eyes and I look back and think I didn't stop and appreciate them enough."

She is not just a role model to her own daughters but to the many New Zealand women who consider her one of the girls, someone who encourages them everyday to wear the dress, ditch the black, put on the sparkle and, yes, follow their dreams.


• Shoppers can customise high quality cotton tees down to the last detail.
• Purchasers go to the Alaska Tees website and select from one of the 35 shapes, choose a colour, style of tee, then choose a design from over a thousand exclusively created images by their Alaska Tees' three graphic designers.
• Once users select their tees online, the Alaska Tees team prints within hours and ships their shirts to them in just days.
• T-shirts cost between $49-$89.
• Launching online nationally and in Mount Maunganui with women's tees, with men's and children's tees in coming months.