Measuring 178cm, with a cascade of wavy brunette hair, bronze legs and a short dress bejewelled in sequins, she's not your usual mum at the primary school gates.

Kelly Coe breaks up the humdrum of school road patrol and standard fashion. She never needs an excuse to glam it up.

The 34-year-old tilts her iPhone up and down on Facetime showing off the dress she wore to Tuesday school drop-off, a black sequined number with LOVE inscribed in white, from her latest collection.

"I think they think I'm way over-dressed sometimes," she quips of other school mums.


Coe, one of Otumoetai College's most successful graduates and creator of fashion label Augustine, has forged a lucrative career here and over the ditch.

She hasn't got a personal assistant and is terrible at keeping a diary, but somehow makes time for everything, including this 10am interview. She answers her phone on Facetime while walking around in white sneakers in her Auckland office. She's lived in Auckland since she was 21.

A chock-a-block clothing rack flashes up on the screen before she arrives at her desk.

"My nanny is away this week," she tells me. "I just had a text [from a friend] looking after my baby to say she hasn't gone to sleep. So I'm like, okay, call me if I have to come home again."

The baby, Havana Alaska, is 8 months old, waking twice a night, and going through a clingy stage. But it's all perfectly manageable for Coe.

She talks on the phone like she runs her life, fast and measured. The phenomenon which is Augustine has seen Coe amass 140,000 Facebook followers on her page Augustine by Kelly Coe.

She established the brand in 2008 and it now has three sister clothing labels: Charlo, Stella Royal and Pretty Basics. All are stocked in their stand-alone stores in Mount Maunganui, Ponsonby, Newmarket and Noosa, Australia; as well as 70 boutiques.

She also has a necklace line and is starting a shoe line: "Because I can't find shoes with enough sparkle in them or copper sneakers with a pink bow on them."


She won't say if Augustine has made her wealthy - "ahh, I don't want to go into that" - but agrees it's "obviously successful."

"I'm not driven by money. When I get asked what drives me, it's never been about the money for me. I'm lucky I get to go to work every day and do a job that I love."

She is the face and creator of Augustine, but husband Nathan Coe, is the "business brains" behind it. He knocks on a glass window between their offices a few times when Coe asks him a question during our interview or he hears something that amuses him.

He does this when I inquire after his age. He's 41 and "really stylish" himself.

"He gets it right most of the time," she teases.

Coe is down-to-earth and relaxed given her fast-paced life. She doesn't tolerate excuses and it's what drives her to work harder.

"I get really frustrated with people who don't get a lot done. I have staff that work the same as me ... They work at a high intensity."

How would her friends describe her in one word? "Crazy" springs to mind first, but then she wrestles between "fun" and "busy."

"They all think that I work way too much, and that I'm just the busiest person."

Up until her last baby, she never had a nanny. But with no family in Auckland, Coe says a nanny is now necessary.

"I think it's easier to have a life with three [kids] and a nanny, than two without a nanny! Ha, ha."

She has a cleaner who comes twice a week, the nanny cooks, but Coe likes to do the school-drop offs, pick-ups, and after-school activities herself. She manages to fit in a run before the nanny goes home at 5.30pm.

Rare time off is spent going out to dinner. Getting a blow-wave. Getting a massage "which happens like once a year." And going to the movies. Her all-time favourite movie is Shawshank Redemption. "I love, love, love Morgan Freeman!" She loves a glass of sav, Stoneleigh or Tohu.

The rest of the time, she's busy being a mum and working.

She insists she only spends a few minutes doing her make-up and choosing an outfit in the morning. She wears all new season samples, and posts a pic daily on Facebook in her latest outfit.

It's the nature of the business that with increased success, comes open slather.

"I know that by having 140,000 Facebook followers, that 139,000 are genuine, beautiful, amazing people. But there's a pocket of them that are crazy."

Does she get some pretty weird messages?

"Oh, yeah," she exclaims. "I get a lot of weird. "You get the whole troll thing, you get the whole keyboard warrior. I don't want to subject my kids to that."

Her Facebook photos sometimes include daughters Indiana, 6, and Demi, 5, but she covers their faces with her hand, or an emoji.

"When [Havana] is a toddler and starts to look like what she's going to look like, I'll stop putting her face up as well. It's a privacy thing."

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Coe, a size 8 former model, has been labelled "superficial" and "selfish" and accused of putting her appearance first.

Her clothes, made in China for the fabric selection and price-point, are loud, flamboyant and encourage women to dress up every day. She's regularly seen on Facebook in thigh-high boots and miniskirts, even in winter.

"I don't like stockings ... Can't stand how they sag down in the crutch and you're constantly pulling them up."

Some women have scorned her for being too done up.

She wore a sequined skirt to a school drop-off and another mum wasn't afraid to tell her just that.

"I put a [Facebook] post up saying there's no reason why you can't be dressed up just for absolutely no reason."

Are Kiwi women a bit slack compared to women overseas?

"Yeah, and it's a shame. I don't expect that everyone would wear a sequined dress to school drop-off, but putting time and effort into yourself to make yourself feel good, is what I think a lot of Kiwi women pass off."

Ironically, fashion was never top of Coe's priorities when growing up.

Born Kelly Jane Stewart ("KJ"), she was more into sport than fashion. "I went to school to eat lunch and play sports my mum used to say."

She further quips: "If I could choose if [one of my daughters] became CEO of this company, or they were a Silver Fern, I'd definitely choose Silver Fern."

Her first foray into fashion was when she designed her own ball gown in the seventh form, which in her head was going to be "incredible," but turned out looking like a wedding dress. "Child of the '90s!"

She went to university, did a BA in media and marketing and a post-graduate diploma in advertising but the corporate world was off-putting. "Everyone wearing black suits? It was definitely not for me."

She became a visual merchandiser for Nike and then went onto work for clothing manufacturer High Society for three years.

"I was employed to cut out swatches. I was there until 9pm at night cutting out these little swatches and I just worked my arse off and made my way [up]."

As she went up, she saw a gap in the market for Augustine but it wasn't an easy-sell.

"I only had two stores that said to me 'this is amazing, this is incredible.' And so now, to see that we're in 70 stores and one of the most popular labels, if not their top label, it amazes me."

Her mum, Jill Stewart and sister, Nicky, all wear Augustine and Charlo.

There's definitely benefits to having her in the family, I note.

"Oh, I know! Ha, ha."

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."

The colour palette they offer in chain stores is "depressing." She doesn't have the quintessential plain black dress in her wardrobe, although she jokes she's worn them to funerals.

Coe will keep on pushing the boundaries and doing something new.

"Keep women in colour and keep women out of black."

- Kelly Coe is one of the key-note speakers at the Ladies Charity Luncheon at ASB Arena on June 9.

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