By Claudia Innes
Next month Annah Stretton will celebrate the 21st birthday of her company the Stretton Clothing Group, home to labels Annah Stretton and Annah.S, a company that has seen exponential growth over the last two decades.
From a small wholesaling base located on her family farm just outside of Morrinsville, to a thriving hub that continually contributes to the Waikato community, there are over 120 men and women employed by the company and thousands more devoted buyers.
The Annah Stretton brand has grown to include 30 retail sites throughout New Zealand and Australia with its import and export operation growing globally by the day.
While historically Annah’s brand has been based around a highly feminine and colourful model, like all designers her styling has developed and become more refined over the years. Garments are created with a focus on usability and practicality while not sacrificing on style.
Infamous for being both a left and right thinker, she has a creative, but sharp eye on her company’s bottom line. The constant development of the Chameleon dress, the one dress that Annah suggests will oust all others from your wardrobe, has continued to impact very positively on the company’s annual income, enabling the brand to set itself apart and maintain steady growth in a very difficult and crowded market.
In 2005 Stretton established the publishing arm of the company, which has grown to include Her Magazine (formally Her Business), Who’s Who, which showcases New Zealand’s leading businesswomen and Pink magazine which supports New Zealand breast cancer initiatives.
In addition to directing her collection of business interests, Annah’s boundless energy also allows her to continue to be actively involved in a huge number of philanthropic endeavours and nurture projects. Most recently the mentor has established a collaborative collection to nurture fellow designer, Kiri Nathan, as well as a nurture partnership with Phoenix Renata of Phoenix Cosmetics.
In 2008, the true level of Annah’s achievements and generosity of spirit was captured when she was awarded the honour of becoming a Member of New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to Fashion, Business and the Community.
Following on from this recognition, Stretton became the 2009 New Zealand recipient of the Veuve Clicquot Award. This global tribute acknowledges female achievers in business and industry who exemplify the qualities of Madame Clicquot, the woman behind the successful champagne house Veuve Clicquot.
While the size of her operation has grown tremendously over 21 years, Stretton’s motivation has remained the same - to provide her customers with the frocks they love, the quality they deserve and service well beyond their expectations, as well as add to the social fabric of the environment around her.
Throughout her career Stretton has detailed her learning experiences and stories through two published books: From Rag Trade to Mag Trade (2007) and Wise Heart: 10 Strategies for Success in Business & Life (2010). In celebration of her 21 years in business, Stretton will share the wisdom and experience that has made her one of New Zealand’s most recognised figures in fashion and business in her third book, Rock the Boat.
Out this April, the new book is all about getting women to stand up and be counted and to not be afraid of using their voice to make change in their environments. She encourages all women to never accept the status quo and believe that they can reach for the stars and live a life that truly generates rewards for them.
Supported with contributions from CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi Worldwide, Kevin Roberts, World of Wearable Art creator, Suzie Moncrieff, alongside other serious New Zealand business achievers, Annah’s new book is a must read manual for all women that strive daily for that elusive life and business success. So where to next for Annah Stretton?
“To have the Annah Stretton label rise to become a globally recognized brand that trades with a strong conscience and heart within the business of fashion. In particular we will be developing a large physical presence in Australia – adding to our existing four retail sites in the coming year, as well as reciting our single cell retail stores in New Zealand to the larger Birds of a Feather environments that enable the in-store women’s events and collaborative partnerships to be maximised.”