Year in Review: Hayley Rhind's inspiring story about starting a fashion label on the farm was one of The Country's most popular reads of 2018.
A South Island woman, with a Diploma in Agribusiness and no fashion training, has created a million-dollar clothing business within three years.
Co-owner and designer Hayley Rhind launched White Chalk, an unmistakably Kiwi fashion brand lovingly designed and made in Blenheim, in 2015. The label, which has just launched its new winter 2018 collection, is now stocked in 40 stores throughout the country.
Hayley says White Chalk quickly evolved from a passion project (with clothing literally designed on the 1000-hectare sheep and cattle farm she lives on in Marlborough with husband Matt and two young kids) to a booming business venture.
"After we bought the farm I couldn't afford to buy designer clothing so I started designing my own patterns and had my sister-in-law Ginny, who was living in Vietnam at the time, produce them for me," says Hayley. "When all of our friends started asking if they could buy our pieces, we realised we were on to a good thing."
Hayley & Ginny decided they made a seamless fashion and business team and are now co-owners of White Chalk. Keeping it in the family, Hayley's brother Nathan - who is Ginny's husband - is overseeing production and all things technical.
Boasting distinctive colours, reasonable price points and high-quality fabrics, (including New Zealand merino), the label quickly developed an avid fan base and Hayley saw an opportunity to move production to New Zealand to match her vision of a fashion brand that is 100 per cent designed and produced locally.
"We made the decision to move our production to Blenheim when we realised that many Kiwi businesses were closing down due to clothing manufacturing going offshore, and this just didn't sit well with us," Hayley explains.
"When you're paying designer prices you deserve to know where your clothes come from, and that they're extremely high quality. Buying locally guarantees this. Our customers also get a kick out of supporting people in their own backyard."
The label's winter collection, officially released nationwide this month, represents another step towards Hayley's long-term goal of using merino wool from her own sheep to produce White Chalk clothing.
"The luxurious fibres of New Zealand merino are second to none and we're very proud to not only support Kiwi made, but also Kiwi grown," she says.
Hayley's design and marketing skills are proudly self-taught and Nathan has learnt photography – all of which enables White Chalk to keep the costs down and make the label more affordable.
The new collection includes gorgeous jumpers, cosy shrugs and versatile ponchos that are designed for women who appreciate style, quality and comfort.
"Our designs are timeless but we also love to inject playful colours, patterns and textures into our collections. White Chalk is everyday luxury – we want our customers to feel confident and look beautiful whether they're going out for dinner, walking into a business meeting or picking up the kids from school."