Last night, in a small building in St Lukes, yacht owners, sailors and members of the marine industry gathered to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of Events Clothing.

It is a company largely unknown to most ordinary boaties. Its clothing lines do not appear on chandlery racks nor do they put in an appearance at boat ramps.

Yet despite that apparent anonymity, Events Clothing is one of the New Zealand marine industry's most successful companies, recognised throughout the world wherever high-profile yacht races are staged or superyachts gather.

Evidence of its international stature was again on display as it celebrated its 20 years in business, with owner Owen Rutter proudly announcing his company had been chosen to outfit the 60-strong crew on MY Serene. One of the biggest motor yachts ever built in Europe, Serene is 134m long, six levels high and all the crew will soon appear in uniforms from an extensive wardrobe supplied by Events Clothing.

Such success is, as Rutter notes, a far cry from the aims of the small company he established with Ross Munro in 1991. Then, Rutter was a former professional sailor who had spent a few years in the marine industry and Munro was the man who held the local distribution rights for the Musto brand of sailing clothing.

The pair established Events Clothing primarily as a non-retail Musto outlet and their prospective clients were "hardcore" yacht-racing crews and the relatively untapped local corporate apparel market.

A few years later, Munro acquired Line 7 and, thanks largely to the successful 1995 America's Cup challenge in San Diego, the pair's world changed.

With their clothing on board Black Magic and working closely with Team New Zealand sponsors ENZA, Lotto, Toyota, Steinlager and TVNZ, the profile of Line 7 escalated.

Although its business was still 80 per cent domestic, the company now had product lines as diverse as corporate uniforms, promotional gear and even golf shirts.

"In the late 90s the rest of our business came from outfitting race crews for events like the Volvo Round the World Race and numerous one-design race teams such as the One Ton Cup, Farr 40s and TP52s," recalls Rutter.

When Team New Zealand defended the America's Cup on home waters in 2000, several of the world's superyachts started paying visits.

Rutter says the company saw an important international opportunity in this sector and decided to develop new product lines for it.

This set it on a new course with a strong export focus and, over the following decade, the company specialised in customised uniforms for superyacht crews.

The strategy paid off. Even when Line 7 hit the wall a couple of years ago, Rutter quickly regrouped. He linked up with the brand's new owners, Charles Parsons, and Events Clothing now holds exclusive rights to Line 7 marine and yachting apparel sales in all markets outside New Zealand and Australia.

Although the global economic crisis in 2009 severely affected the company, Rutter says things are now looking positive again.

"Twenty-five per cent of our revenue was wiped out [in the recession] with international sales dipping harder and faster than in the domestic market. Clients only replaced basic uniform needs, they didn't paint their boats, they didn't sail to any new destinations.

"Now, in contrast, the international business has bounced back faster than New Zealand seems to have. In the 2011 financial year, we'll be back up to where we were in terms of gross revenue and even a bit ahead of budget."

Events Clothing has now supplied uniforms to more than 280 superyachts and Rutter says the company's current top 20 customers consist of 18 superyachts and two corporates.

The company's focus now is strongly on the big motor-yacht market.

"Of the superyachts currently plying the world's oceans, 80 per cent are motor yachts and only 20 per cent are sailing yachts," says Rutter.

"If you look back to 2000 when we decided to focus on the international superyacht market, most of our business was with sailing yachts - that's the business we knew and that's the business New Zealand boat builders like Alloy Yachts, Yachting Developments and Fitzroy Yachts have been most well-known for.

"However an important consideration is that the motor yachts typically have much larger crews than sailing yachts and they also have a more extensive uniform."

Although the company is unashamedly a New Zealand one, Rutter realises that it needs strong representation offshore, too.

"We wanted a closer connection with Europe by 2011, so it was very pleasing to form a partnership with Evolution Yacht Agents at the end of last year. This agency has offices in Barcelona and Palma and now a showroom stocked with our own Events uniform range and examples of our customised crew uniform options.

"In the UK we have made a connection with Southampton-based Rule 26, which has a very strong corporate and marine customer base."

Rutter says those connections are already paying dividends and the company is now gearing up to double its sales turnover over the next five years.