I’ve recently discovered that Mount Maunganui is quite the haven for creative and savvy kiwi business. If time had allowed there would have been more than a few days of interviews to be had there! But I was on a mission to meet with Beks Anderson and the Chaos & Harmony team in the lead up to a fun collaboration we have in the works (all to be revealed in next few days!)
The Chaos & Harmony HQ is also the home of Beks, Greg and son Matthias, work place of Hayley Fruish and Ingrid Sowter, studio for product shots, location for campaign shoots and general awesome roaming ground for one extremely attractive feline!
From 2003 – 2005 Beks was immersed in the creative world as an interior designer at local business; Urban Lounge Interiors. Her work was spread over boutique residential right through to commercial packages, exposing her to the realities of a business involved in the creative industry. She relished the design process of brief development and the opportunity to carry projects through from conception to a fully styled and finished result.
Beks Anderson also had a real thing for shoes. She was obsessed with the construction and design of footwear – any purchases weren’t made lightly and most often, were always made while overseas. The limited offering of quality design led footwear in NZ at the time had her beginning to recognise an unfilled niche. Research ensued and in 2006, Beks and husband Greg upped sticks and moved to Italy!
Greg was able to continue his work in web design remotely and indulge his love of great coffee while Beks threw herself head first into an intensive 12 month shoe design course that was mostly taught in Italian! While there was occasionally a translator on hand, with some serious concentration she was surprised at how she was able to understand. The tutors were pulled from design royalty of the likes of Fendi and Valentino and taught beyond just design and construction practice to cover marketing, branding and production.
Initially the couple thought that they might stay on in Europe to create something that they could filter back to New Zealand…however the exact opposite happened. On their return Beks took up some contract work with Minx while designing her own range. There there was the mission of exploring production avenues! Armed with their designs they jumped on a plane to China as it had become evident they needed to be on the ground to find and secure the right manufacturer.A chance meeting with the CFO of Skechers in hotel lobby led to dinner and some seriously helpful contacts.
Suddenly – it was all go!
An email arrived informing them that the samples were ready but that they needed a label to print?! A name! After much discussion with friends and family, Chaos & Harmony was decided upon. Beks believes that it has the ability to mean something different to everybody but for her, it was a name that let her brand be flexible enough to have contradictions but in balance (…..there are bags in the future people!)
2008 NZ Fashion Week marked their first offering. They invited potential retailers to view their collection and also took it on a country wide road trip. Right from word go they worked with Chris Lorimer at Ciel PR and by the time orders needed to be placed they had 10 quality stockists across NZ that fitted their brand perfectly.
Since then Chaos & Harmony has grown to include 25 stockists and a healthy online store and presence. Business and family is very much mixed together. Everyone in the office have young families at home and there is an emphasis on supporting that balance. In Beks own words: Everybody is everything to everyone when help is needed and flexibility is paramount.
With the Mount airport only 5 minutes away and offering an easy connection to the rest of NZ and beyond, Chaos & Harmony look set to stay put in the beautiful seaside town for the mean time. They have their feelers out for a new “out-of-home” HQ and an eye firmly on the future with many exciting collaborations and projects on the horizon.
I left the Mount feeling inspired, but more than that, kind of marveling at meeting yet another savvy business minded creative team. Companies like Chaos & Harmony that manage to tackle things in their own stride, push their own ideas and still remain extreeeeemly grounded and “normal” – well they represent everything that can be achieved by NZ based creatives. Essentially we can have the best of both worlds if we want!All photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home
WHAT I LEARNT FROM BEKS ANDERSON:
Fashion and design is one thing, but to translate that into a career it is vital you have a firm understanding of the realities of business.
Marketing, branding, production, logistics, finance.
These don’t just happen.