The design ties that bind

As draconian media overlord and Rhys Darby lookalike Vincent Heeringa opined soon after the recent New Zealand International Business awards were handed out this week, the creative economy used to be something that cute, boutique Kiwi businesses talked about. Now, however, design and intellectual property have become an integral aspect of the really big New Zealand exporters as well and they were the two elements that bound many of the winners—and particularly the supreme award-winning Pumpkin Patch—together.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) chief executive Peter Chrisp says the award-winners (check out the full list of award winners here) did the hard yards to understand how to create value in a fast-changing and competitive global economy.

“They all have successes, failures, insights and opinions about how to export—crucially what it takes to be an international operator, whether in commodities or in design-led value add products and services,” says Chrsip.

He sat down with the chief executives from the finalists companies to share a few stories of what has worked—and what hasn’t.

“The common themes in these stories are about growth—through differentiation, through brand, through design, through the exploitation of knowledge. And in so doing commanding higher margins. Of course all of this is underpinned by inspired, risk-taking leadership.”

Pumpkin Patch was recognised for using good design to increase sales and the judges felt it had the culture and processes in place to achieve further international success. The entire collection is designed by an in-house design team who garment a distinctive design signature and part of the company’s uniqueness comes from taking the latest global kids’ fashion trends and giving them a twist of New Zealand flair.

More than 80 percent of Pumpkin Patch’s business is now from international markets, achieving what few other specialty apparel brands have—exporting to 22 countries around the world, with markets in the fast-developing Middle East, India, China and Malaysia.

“When I visit other countries now, I don’t see a Pumpkin Patch lookalike anywhere,” says Pumpkin Patch chief executive, Maurice Prendergast. “It’s a funny thing, but it’s because Pumpkin Patch products are our own interpretation of what we see internationally in fashion … We’re a design-led company, and have been right from the very beginning. We don’t pick a t-shirt up off the manufacturer’s rack and say, ‘Give me one hundred of those’.”

Read more about Pumpkin Patch’s design sensibility on our sister site Design Daily here.

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