#272 Des Rusk pulls the plug on label – exclusive interview

To be announced tomorrow morning (NZ time): NZ designer Des Rusk will be shuttering his eponymous semi-tailored menswear label at the end of the current summer season. Des Rusk is stocked in six stores between New Zealand and Australia and has been operating for four seasons. Formerly the head designer for Little Brother (and workmate of mine), Rusk achieved household name status after menswear giant Barkers chose him to design a capsule collection for the brand. In an interesting twist of fate, after Barkers and Des Rusk ended their agreement, Barkers signed a deal to exclusively distribute Rusk’s previous employer Little Brother after the label closed its stores.

Despite being in Paris, I managed to secure the exclusive interview with Rusk about his label’s closure. Read it below.

I hear you’re pulling the plug on Des Rusk. What’s the story?
Yeah that’s right, I’ve decided to put it on the shelf for a bit.

How much does the recession have to do with it?
Not a huge deal. I actually made the decision early last year, before the recession got nasty, so if anything it’s just confirmed my decision.

We’ve seen several designers shutting down operations lately, including Hailwood and Little Brother – do you think it’s too difficult to operate in the market at this time?
The wholesale market I operate in has always been pretty challenging, as a whole. I think it’s fair to say now is as tough as ever, but at the same time some of my stockists have been as busy as they ever have been.

What happened with the Barkers deal?
It was always a season by season gig, it ran its life and was a great opportunity which helped my brand reach a different market, so I’m grateful for that.

I’ve heard about a lot of young designers who have gotten into financial strife over shops going bankrupt and not paying their bills. Did anything like that happen to you?
There’s been a few challenges regarding that, but in general all of my stockists have been great.

Do you think New Zealand is over saturated with brands at the moment?
I think there are definitely more options available but I don’t know if it’s over saturated. I think the more quality menswear out there the better.

Do you feel bitter about closing down or are you happy to be moving onto new challenges?
No, I’m not bitter at all. I’m not being shut down by anyone, it’s my own decision, one that I’ve become more and more comfortable with since I made it.

Where to from here?
Not sure. You know of anything? No, there’s a few things I’m looking at, it’s the first time in a while where I’ve had the chance to look at new avenues so I’ve been enjoying doing that. I feel I’m leaving the label at a good point, I’m just after a new challenge.

Is it a forever shut down or a hiatus and what can we expect to see from Des Rusk in the next 6 months/year?
Not much, as far as the label goes anyway. It’s definitely something I’ll come
back to at some stage, perhaps in a different capacity though, who knows.

When will you shut everything down for good?
At the end of this summer season, so pretty much now. I didn’t do a winter collection as it was always intended this summer would be my last season.

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