#509 Hepburn – it’s a family business

I must admit that prior to this afternoon, I’ve never set foot inside Hepburn on Ponsonby Road. I first met its owners Fenella and Cy (pictured above) about five and seven years ago when they were working at Fabric and Wunderkammer respectively. At that point Fenella was a lawyer and it always confused me as to why a laywer would moonlight in a retail store, but legend had it that she loved clothes so much that nobody could keep her away. Cy was older, cooler and infinitely better dressed than me, and I’d go into Wunderkammer all the time to talk fashion with him and Mark, and ask them advice about my fledgling tee shirt label Misfit – which they gave out in spades. Since then I haven’t talked to either Fenella or Cy at all, until I received an email out of the blue from Fenella last week.

In the message, she told me that they were about to become New Zealand’s sole stockists of Toms Shoes. I’ve read a lot about Toms online but had never seen them in the flesh, so this gave me the perfect opportunity to go in, see the shoes, visit Fenella and Cy and check out their store. I planned on doing a What’s in store, but their new menswear hasn’t yet cleared customs and Fenella refused to be my model, so I did an interview with them about the store instead. I also did an interview with them about Toms for MAX, which you can read here.

Spot the Toms

How long have you been open for?
Coming up to four years in July.

What was the push to make you want to open your own store?
F: I always wanted to do a store, I’ve always been into clothing, I’ve always done clothing retail since I was 17, I started at Karen Walker, was at Fabric for years, and now here. It was always a dream and finally it became a reality after many years of practicing law.
C: I started at Zambesi Man, then went to Crane Brothers and then to Wunderkammer where I had the most fun with Mark, obviously it was madness which was good, but I always wanted to design my own and sell to our fantastic customers.

House model in mina perhonen – my favourite piece in store

Who do you stock?
F: Womenswear we sell anne valerie hash, she’s fantastic, she’s one of the ten accredited couture designers, she’s very much up there, though pretty niche – she’s not in many stores worldwide. Kristensen du Nord, Marc Jacobs is the biggest one we stock, which I love. Yohji Yamamoto Ys collection and the new Red Line is coming soon this season which is the new Yamamoto diffusion line. sacai which is incredible, she was the knitwear designer at Comme des Garcons for years and set sacai up four years ago. mina perhonen, the newest one, which is also another Japanese line, and Marni menswear which is starting in another month, Cy Herman’s personal menswear collection and sacai menswear, which is stocked in Colette and 10 Corso Como worldwide, and that’s it, and Hepburn. So we’re pretty luck to have that. Almost everyone we deal with is small and independent like us so we’ve been lucky enough to forge really good relationships with everyone, even though we are, on the scheme of things pretty pathetic in terms of size (laughs).

So this is your first season going into menswear.
C: Yes. There’s always room for more, there’s only really Mark (at Wunderkammer) who sells really good menswear, there’s definitely beautiful stuff out there, and we wanted to bring it in.

mina perhonen take 2

How do you guys buy?
F: We make four trips a year, two for womenswear and two for menswear, to Paris and Milan, as we said we’ve got really tight relationships with all of our suppliers so we go to each showroom, we don’t go to trade fairs or anything like that, and we view the collections on models, and we work on gut reaction. We don’t dither about it, we just buy what we like.

So straight away if you see something you like you’ll choose it?

Definitely. So to that extent our motivation isn’t necessarily commercial, although a business works in both ways after you’ve been doing it for a while.

Cy and Fenella’s favourite piece in the store – by Marc Jacobs

Do you go to New York for Marc Jacobs?
No we buy that in Milan. His collections are all in Milan before Paris Fashion Week, that’s why I go to Milan. Everything else we can see in Paris. We used to go to New York but it’s just an extra trip. Seeing the Marc Jacobs show is amazing though, it’s one of the best shows to go to.

What sort of people in Auckland are your customers?
It’s quite a wide cross section, obviously it’s people who love clothes, a lot of them take it very seriously, and obviously most of them have a reasonably good disposable income, which goes pretty much hand in hand with high end fashion (laughs), but we get all sorts. We get some people that we know can’t necessarily buy anything because they can’t necessarily afford to, but they come to see beautiful things. So to that extent we aim to be a bit more of a gallery space for people who appreciate what we do.

anne valerie hash shoes

What age groups?
F: Most of our customers are 40 plus, probably again because of the price points, but appreciation comes from all ages.

What are your favourite labels?
F: Hands down favourite would be sacai, it’s incredible, pretty small, they’re really anti advertising so you have to be in the know to know about it, but the production is incredible, beautifully made, amazing fabrics, and it’s a small independent company just doing what they want.

Are there any labels out there that you’re not stocking that you’d like to pick up?

C: Marni menswear, which we’re getting.
F: I haven’t got anything on the horizon at the moment, if I wanted it I would have gotten it. We’ll see closer to the next collections if there’s anything terribly exciting.

Me, Cy and Fenella with their super cute daughter Bibi

Do you guys keep a close eye on everybody who shows?
F: As close as we can, we take an interest and when you’re involved in the industry on an international level you just absorb things you know, kind of by osmosis, you don’t necessarily have to be actively hunting labels out, you just hear about them if you’ve got the network in place. It doesn’t feel like we’re pursuing anything on searching the net day by day, we’re just living and we pick things up.

How do you like dem apples?

If you could have any customer in the world, who would it be?

C: Bryan Ferry.
F: He’s been into the store.
C: No he hasn’t, it was his girlfriend who came in, Bryan wasn’t here. I would love to dress Bryan.
F: I’d like someone like Keira Knightley who I know would come in and buy a lot (laughs) – that’s what the question was about right?

What’s in store at Hepburn coming soon… Watch this space!


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  1. Kate says

    yay, I have wanted a pair of TOMS for ages! do you know if they’ll take orders from outside Auckland?

  2. Anonymous says

    i want those anne valerie hash brogues! are they mens or womens? i can’t tell via the photo…

  3. says

    OMG that’s awesome I was JUST talking to Blake of TOMS shoes and he was the one who told me about Hepburn!! I am so going to Auckland to get a pair of these; maybe even a couple pairs. I mean the reason behind it is brilliant of course. So I am glad they finally came to New Zealand. Now I can get a pair without worrying about size issues. Thanks for the info <3

  4. Anonymous says

    I thought Denise L’Estrange-Corbet and Francis Hooper owned World not Hepburn…..silly me.

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