Firm's clothes are worn on some of the most luxurious vessels afloat.

Launched last year to huge publicity, the Italian-built superyacht Serene is one of the largest and most sophisticated such vessels in the world. The 134m motorboat has two helicopter landing pads, seven decks and an indoor swimming pool which doubles as the docking station for a submarine.

Meanwhile, and to much less publicity, Auckland-based Events Clothing has nabbed the lucrative contract to supply the boat's crew of 62 (including six chefs) with a complete uniform wardrobe - everything from wet-weather gear to evening wear and shoes. The contract, worth more than $500,000, is one of the company's biggest.

Based in St Lukes, Events Clothing specialises in providing marine clothing to superyachts, racing teams and their associated corporate sponsors.

The company has been around for 20 years but flies under the local radar. It has its own label, most of which is manufactured overseas, and regularly turns over $4 million to $5 million, with exports accounting for 80 per cent of the business.

Supplying such a niche market from New Zealand has its challenges, says managing director Owen Rutter, and it's definitely a case of who you know. Most business comes from referrals but Rutter, who is chairman of the NZ Marine Exporters' Association, also sets up shop at the huge annual superyacht shows in Monaco, Amsterdam and Antigua.

And he mixes with crews and owners at the coalface of superyacht racing: a sail trimmer on Sir Peter Blake's boat Ceramco in his 1981-82 Whitbread campaign, these days Rutter crews regularly in regattas for an American real estate magnate on the J-Class yacht Ranger.

Rutter set up Events Clothing in 1991 with local marine clothing manufacturer Ross Munro. Munro, who later bought the Line 7 brand (now owned by local textile house Charles Parsons), dealt with the retail and merchandising side of things while Rutter focused on supplying gear to race teams and corporates. The company benefited hugely from Team New Zealand's 1995 America's Cup win, says Rutter.

He cemented relationships with corporate sponsors and teams, and the redevelopment of Auckland's Viaduct as an international race stopover and yacht base boosted business.

However, local competition in the marine clothing market soon heated up so Rutter decided to have a crack at the superyachts. It was a bold move that paid off: superyachts now account for 70 per cent of the company's exports.

Rutter also knew he needed a strong point of difference, so he began offering customised orders - a policy which can mean long hours for staff dealing with customers in other time zones but one which has paid off with significant repeat business. And he began to work with other companies to source items, such as evening wear from local label World.

Orders can be big, even if the crew is small. A crew of just 10 could still require at least three or four pairs of the same style of shorts for each person, and for men and women. Also, T-shirts are often ordered as gifts for guests and friends and family.

In the past few years Rutter has targeted the motor-powered superyacht market; these boats traditionally have bigger crews and require a bigger range in their uniform.

It hasn't all been plain sailing. In 2005 Rutter teamed up with fitness company Les Mills International to supply and organise distribution of gear for its 100,000 instructors in the United States. But with no retail outlets, online sales were slow.

Rutter pulled out of the joint venture after 18 months and, several hundred thousand dollars down, vowed to stick to his knitting.

And the global financial crisis has caused even superyacht owners to scrimp. In 2009 the company faced a huge downturn as some repeat customers halved their spending. Rutter had already hired business execution expert to help boost growth but says the adviser ended up helping the company survive the recession.

Things are bouncing back now, he says. In December the company opened two showrooms in partnership with yacht agency Evolution in Spain's Palma de Mallorca and Barcelona.

And the company has picked up a contract to supply the head office of not-for-profit group Save Our Seas Foundation with staff uniforms, and is negotiating to supply the foundation's merchandise clothing.

Rutter is also looking forward to increased superyacht business in Auckland with the Rugby World Cup and the Volvo Ocean race stopover next year.