It Takes Two: Thread Design’s Sarah Sadgrove & Katie Collis On Kindred Ambition & Business

By Leanne Moore
Sarah Sadgrove and Katie Collis of Thread Design.

Partnerships bring their own set of challenges and rewards to creative endeavours. In this new series, we catch up with New Zealand design duos to find out their secrets to success and what they each bring to the table.

Katie Collis and Sarah Sadgrove spotted a gap in the market

Friends from childhood, they pooled their collective talents and launched Thread Design, supplying stunning bed linen collections to exclusive design and department stores throughout New Zealand and overseas.

The dynamic duo enjoyed a smooth run until 2008, when the worldwide financial crises hit many New Zealand retailers hard. Some disappeared, including Thread’s biggest Auckland stockist.

With a chunk of their market gone overnight, the pair took a calculated punt and added retail to their wholesale operation, opening Thread Design’s flagship store in Grey Lynn, Auckland.

It was a pivotal moment, testing their ability to refocus and keep going a skill they needed again when the Covid pandemic brought them fresh challenges in 2020.

Katie Collis

Sarah and I went to ballet together as little girls. When we were about five, I was on a playdate at her house and we set up shop at the letterbox, selling chewing gum and mandarins. It’s amazing that we did that way back then, and we’ve ended up in business together all these years later.

As a child I spent my spare time making my own clothes, then I studied fashion design in Wellington. Before launching Thread Design, I worked in fashion, including a stint with Karen Walker.

Sarah and I complement each other, which is one of the big reasons we’ve been able to successfully run a business together for 22 years. I admire her optimism and problem-solving skills. She also has a great eye for colour, which is reflected in all our collections. Her strong commercial sense has been a huge asset to our company. Sarah’s good at numbers and operations, while I take care of production and manufacturing. We work on the design (the fun stuff) together.

We’ve known each other for so long, if there’s a difference of opinion, we work things out with intuition and mutual respect. Being the same age and always at a similar life stage has been another benefit. Our partnership has allowed Sarah and I to meet the demands of running a business while raising children, especially when the children were younger.

Thread Design’s latest cushion collection, created in collaboration with Auckland artist Melanie Field, is entitled Elements of Nature.
Thread Design’s latest cushion collection, created in collaboration with Auckland artist Melanie Field, is entitled Elements of Nature.

I’ve got three boys aged from 12 to 19 and Sarah has a daughter and three boys, aged from 12 to 18. This shared understanding of what it’s like to be a working mother has helped us navigate our way through our professional partnership.

I’ve known Sarah so long she’s like a sister. We even worked together overseas when we were younger. The two of us were employed at a grand hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands. That’s where the idea for Thread was born! We came up with the concept for the brand while we were making beds at the lodge.

Covid was by far the most challenging time for our business. It pushed us into an entirely new and uncharted territory, filled with so many uncertainties. Trying to run the business from home was challenging enough, but home-schooling on top of that made it incredibly demanding. We were fortunate that we had the ability to sell our products online.

We don’t socialise together as much as we used to. Our families keep us busy and our children are at different schools so we don’t cross over so much outside of work but we’ve had some really great family holidays together over the years.

Sarah Sadgrove

I met Katie at her cousin’s birthday party when we were about four and immediately bonded with her over our curly tops. A playdate was arranged and we were friends from that day. Katie has a strong unflappable nature which is such a great trait to have in a business partner and I admire that immensely.

She also has an impeccable eye for detail and an understanding of the construction of garments, which is such an asset in the manufacturing of textile products.

I have a commerce degree, something that I’ve drawn on often over the years, and we have a shared vision for Thread Design, which is vital in moving forward. We understand each other so well and respect each other’s views. We listen to each other and inspire and challenge each other to think creatively. We bounce ideas off each other and share the highs and lows, which is so important. It would be a hard slog doing it on your own.

The Desert Light pillow by Thread Design.
The Desert Light pillow by Thread Design.

We are really fortunate that we have been at similar life stages while running Thread Design. It has given us a mutual understanding of the challenges. For example, when a child is sick, or there is a school event on, we understand the need to be there.

As the years have gone on and our children’s lives have got busier, we don’t socialise as much as we used to. It’s probably quite good that we don’t live in each other’s pockets as that might be a little intense. We talk just about every day of the year though.

There have been a few bumps along the way but most recently Covid has definitely been the biggest challenge. Sometimes I think we need to stop and reflect a little more on where we have come and what we have created.

For me, seeing our products featured in magazines and being used in everyday life is a wonderful thing. It’s always heart-warming to hear that customers love what we do.

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