When level four lockdown hit Stretton Clothing there was an immediate stillness followed by a sense of finality on the horizon for the almost 30-year-old fashion brand. But that didn’t last long.
Within a week a small, socially distanced team was given the green light to turn their Morrinsville-based sewing machines to the production of fabric facemasks.
“What started out as an SOS order for 6000 fabric masks suddenly become an opportunity for us to leverage 28 years of infrastructure, fabric stock, and expertise in support of our community and it felt great.” Says founder Annah.
Overnight there were online orders coming thick and fast from customers that had never touched the iconic fashion brand and the business responded with a fast, local, and cost-effective face mask to give everyone and anyone the opportunity to purchase one.
“This about-turn has been hugely re-energising at a personal and business level. Both of us have felt like we’ve been at the helm of a new business.” Says General Manager, Sami Stretton.
Which got them thinking about two major things: firstly, how could they reshape their business to make it more relevant, inclusive and viable going forward? Secondly, how could they stand in solidarity with the unforeseen financial burdens that so many New Zealanders were now facing into?
“COVID-19 has changed everything for everyone and so we decided to be the brand that listened and responded to those winds of change in a very tangible way,” says Annah.
And so, on 28 April all the prices came down on the Annah Stretton website which had nothing to do with a sale event and everything to do with a new beginning. A brand that had always prided itself on producing affordable, gorgeous clothing under an ‘any woman anywhere’ mantra was in a way coming home.
“In these incredibly challenging times, we decided to put our money where our mouth is by cutting all our margins and taking a direct hit to the bottom line. It was a way that we could tangibly acknowledge the hardship and cuts being experienced to household incomes.” Says Stretton.
“Now more than ever women need to be able to celebrate who they are, every day and we wanted to be the brand to show up to help more women do that.”
When the Annah Stretton Retail stores finally re-open, their pricing will also reflect the new stand.
“There have been so many good things that have come out of this collective and abrupt pausing and slowing down of the human race, and for our business that’s been a recall to our more inclusive roots. It feels good to be back” says Annah.