With a sparse population of just 4.7 million, and a geographical positioning that is detached from major fashion markets, it’s no surprise that luxury clothing retailers are rare in New Zealand. Gucci and Prada have established just one store each in Auckland - the country’s largest metropolitan city - yet the rest of the country’s retail landscape remains largely underdeveloped.
In a bid to cultivate the market, Luke Crowther launched his multi-label menswear store Edit in 2009. “The population in New Zealand doesn’t have much exposure to top-tier luxury brands, and zero exposure to lesser-known fashion houses,” he tells ORDRE. “Over the last nine years, we’ve been trying to slowly dial up the menswear market with our offering.”
Leading international brands fit-out all three of Edit’s polished spaces: French ready-to-wear brand Drôle de Monsieur, the store’s current top-selling label, sits alongside Y-3, its longest-standing best-seller, as well as newcomers like New York’s Deveaux, LA-based John Elliot, and streetwear stalwart Heron Preston. Crowther is currently in talks with Marni and Missoni in a wider effort to elevate the store’s brand selection and price points.
“The population in New Zealand doesn’t have much exposure to top-tier luxury brands and zero exposure to lesser-known fashion houses”
“We tend to avoid the local design scene and spend more time travelling because our clientele comes to us for a global point of view,” he explains in response to why no native designers have found their way onto the shop floor. “We try to find either exclusive or emerging brands that are relatively unknown and that can’t be found anywhere across the country.”
The retailer adds that only distinctive fashion-forward brands are able to woo Edit’s discerning clientele - of whom roughly 50 percent are Asian, thanks to Auckland’s growing population of Chinese students with ample discretionary cash to spend. “As well as our local customers, we cater to [this] small but growing percentage of the population because they truly understand fashion, and shopping is a real interest for them.”
Yet, finding suitable inventory to accommodate the fit of both Asian customers and local shoppers is proving to be a major challenge. It seems that one size does not fit all. In order to navigate this, Crowther prioritises cut, quality, and integrity over a more trend-based approach when selecting labels: “There are a lot of hyped brands on the market and in my opinion, they don’t really stack up in terms of quality. They have very high price points based on influencer strategies not on product, so we veer away from them where we can.”
Like most brick-and-mortar stores, Edit is also developing its e-commerce platform but Crowther explains that this operates less like a digital sales avenue and more like an online catalogue that helps drive traffic to their physical locations. “The likelihood of people spending a lot of money on garments without trying them on in this country is rather slim,” he says, adding, “We find that our clients like to look at our collections online, but come in-store to see them up close and make their purchases there.”
“The likelihood of people spending a lot of money on garments without trying them on in this country is rather slim”
In spite of Crowther’s enthusiasm for digital, only a handful of products are available online; in-store purchases still account for 90 percent of Edit’s total sales. Unsurprisingly, an expansion is on the cards and perhaps a foray into womenswear: “A lot of the brands we work with also do women’s, and I think that they have a more interesting take on the market."
“We’re trying to develop the country’s luxury landscape slowly but steadily, with the aim to continue introducing something fresh and exciting to this small emerging market,” he continues. Up until now, Crowther’s sophisticated eye for men’s fashion has ensured Edit’s rise to the top of New Zealand’s luxury landscape. But in a somewhat unsaturated retail environment, it’s had considerable opportunity to do so. Let’s see how he fares with this new direction.