The name Juliette Hogan is synonymous with clothing that is loved as much by the fashion industry insiders as it is by us everyday females. Her story is an inspiring tale of good kiwi grit and dedication mixed with an aesthetic that gently combines luxury with a casual vibe. With nearly 10 years on the clock, its safe to say that Juliette has got a brand story to be proud of and has no regrets that the logo is her signature!
At the age of 12, Juliette’s mum taught her to sew and she took to it with gusto. Throughout her teens she made ball dresses and clothes for her friends on the little Bernina 803 that her mother had received as a wedding present. Even when she shipped off to Wellington for Uni, the Bernina would be packed tidily into its little retro red case and made the pilgrimage back and forth over the next 4 years.
Despite what you might expect, when Juliette set off to study at Massey University in 1998 it wasn’t fashion in her sights – instead, interior design! In her first year her major passion for textiles took hold and she landed somewhere between the two subjects by majoring in textile design. During her final year she entered a competition in Pavement magazine to win a 6 month scholarship to study at Parsons School of Fashion in New York. The finalists were judged by Karen Walker and Juliette won! However her excitement had to be contained as the September 11 attacks coincided with the announcement and the opportunity was delayed for a whole year.
She went on to graduate then moved to Auckland to work as a design assistant for Helen and Chris Cherry at Workshop and got her first taste of being in the engine room of a commercial fashion brand. By September 2002 she packed that experience and took it with her to New York, moving into student housing on Wall Street not far from “Ground Zero”.
During her 6 month course at Parsons she also interned for successful kiwi expat; Rebecca Taylor. Juliette vividly remembers admiring Rebecca’s beautiful studio and imagining what her own workroom might one day look like. This was a thought that came as a surprise as up until this point she still wasn’t considering fashion design as her career of choice, instead simply cutting her teeth in the industry to find her niche. But certainly a seed had been sown…
With her scholarship coming to an end Parsons offered to cover her tuition so that she could stay on to complete the full year and work on the collection she had conceptualised alongside the other students for the graduation show. But living expenses and rent were simply miles out of her reach so instead she flew to LA, bunked down with some cousins and produced her collection in just 6 weeks with which she was still able to be included.
The world then called her name and for 10 months she traveled and temped with London as her base. With a laugh she recalled one of the best paid jobs she had ever had was keeping the fridges in an office building well stocked and hanging out with the security guards and mail man! This period marked the first time as a young adult that she had worked on something that had no emotional investment from herself… and it was rejuvenating!
In December 2003 she arrived home on a mission and made a beeline for her parents place in Karaka. She was now positive she wanted to start her own business. Despite her valuable scholarship, exposure to the international fashion scene and internships – things didn’t go as easily as she thought. On the back of her scholarship win she was naive in thinking that the NZ industry would be far more interested then they actually were but this, if anything, gave her added determination to achieve her dream.
So for the first 3 years based in her parents garage she was as a true one man band, learning the ins-and-outs of the fashion industry as she went. Orders slowly began to grow but money was still fairly slim on the ground. In her second year of operation she joined fashion PR agency Showroom 22 who helped her gain some press coverage and subsequently capture the attention of the NZ wholesale and retail game players. A move that paid off.
There wouldn’t be many brands that could claim to be showing at NZ Fashion Week while still working from their Dad’s garage, but in 2006 that is exactly what Juliette Hogan did! In 2007 the ball had begun to roll and she claimed a busy corner of Ponsonby Road and opened her flagship boutique, moving her studio in above it. With the business gaining traction she employed her very first staff member; Chantelle Mears as Retail Manager. Production soon doubled as did the pressure! But the trade off was her design process benefiting from actually getting to see customers trying on her designs first hand.
In 2009 Juliette added her first design assistant to her small team. The brand continued to grow in popularity and she felt increasingly more confident in her style and direction with each new collection. 2012 marked a big year for the label. An in house Sales and Communications Manager was employed and they took the big step to open a larger store in the brand new Britomart precinct. In April this year the team finally burst out of their tiny Ponsonby base and moved into the huge and lofty workroom just off Dominion Road (pictured here!) The old studio now provides a lovely private consultation area for their growing bridesmaids dress service.
In an exciting twist Chantelle returned to the business to take up the reins of Sales and Communications and Meagan Curran now works as Design Assistant and Production Manager.
It seems only fitting to me that this small team of three get the luxury of working together in this big bright space considering Juliette’s humble garage beginnings. As I sat and chatted with them I couldn’t help feel a dose of the satisfaction Juliette must have in the fruits of her labour. She admitted that she feels the brand has really come into its own over the last 18 months and for the first time she feels utterly at ease with the direction and style of her work. I simply couldn’t agree more!! 2014 will mark 10 years of her namesake label and looking back on the hard work and interesting story to date I am fascinated with what is next!!
All photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home
What I learnt from Juliette:
“it’s better to make mistakes on a small scale than on a large one” – so get in and experiment, learn and cut your fingers early so that you build a strong and proven base for your business to grow on.