Fashion startup recognizes under-appreciated Kiwi brands

The Unknown Collective is  a retail outlet that showcases New Zealand fashion and design through both a physical and online store. The beautiful, freshly opened Takapuna flagship location stocks boutique New Zealand-made jewellery and clothing, while allowing shelf space for the occasional artistic or ceramic masterpiece. The Unknown Collective is a destination for style and fashion that has not been commercialised by million-dollar corporations or the media.

The store was conceived and created by Dominic Ellet out of a passion for fashion, an eye for quality design, and a love for the under-appreciated talent that is abundant in New Zealand offers.

However, The Unknown Collective is not Dominic’s first relationship with fashion. In 2009 he launched the boutique clothing label Stay True in his spare time. It has done reasonably well, garnering a sizeable audience both in New Zealand and overseas. The experiences Dominic has had and the lessons he has learned from Stay True have proven crucial to creating and opening The Unknown Collective.

“I have always loved fashion,” he told us, “especially street wear, and [I] always wanted to eventually open my own concept store. Between then and now I have worked a few retail jobs across fashion and electronics.

“Around May last year I decided I didn’t want to work for a big retail company anymore. I wanted to have more control over a store/ brands etc, [so] I sat down with my family and brainstormed what having my own store would look like.

“The Unknown Collective concept was born out conversations around the dinner table [regarding] the Kiwi-owned brands that no-one knew of, that I felt deserved exposure and [needed] to be supported over the mass produced brands you see dominating the street now.”

Dominic then took the concept to paper.

“The next step was to do a comprehensive business plan and research potential brand partners. Once the business plan and financial plan was complete I went to the bank.”

The Unknown Collective’s mission is all about showcasing New Zealand talent in fashion and design. Dominic does this by creating partnerships with labels and brands in need of recognition. In fact Dominic says that he’s set up the store as a co-op of sorts, and he finds that both new and established labels are generally open to the idea of working in parallel with The Unknown Collective.

“It makes sense for new emerging brands to align themselves with other new brands. For the majority of our brands, we are the first physical store to stock them, so most people are keen to be on board with what we are doing.

“There is strength in the united voice – the more brands we have, the louder the voice [is] saying, ‘Hey we are young designers making product in New Zealand check out something a little different to what you will find in any other store’ is.”

The Unknown Collective has found great success in social media marketing, but has dabbled in a little radio advertising. It’s hardly necessary though. Even pre-launch fans were saying that the new location was already their favourite place.

Dominic continues to capitalise on that excitement, and says that in the future we can expect to see more locations pop up in Wellington and Christchurch. The young Takapuna fashion entrepreneur has also not ruled out giving our mates across the ditch a taste of the concept.

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