A match made in London
It seems Wallace Cotton and Blunt Umbrellas go together like fish ‘n’ chips or pavlova and whipped cream. Following an introduction from Kea, the two Kiwi companies have just released a floral print umbrella that showcases the very best of both brands and highlights the incredible value of collaborating with businesses that share a similar purpose. They spoke to Kea about their journey and their advice for other companies looking to do something similar.
Sophie Turner grew up running around Wallace Cotton stores. The business was founded in 2006 by her aunt and uncle Paula and Bill Wallace after her aunt made a duvet cover for a friend. In 2016 she moved to London to do her OE, and two years later when a position became available to run the UK operations for Wallace Cotton, she put up her hand to step into the role.
The first two years were a steep learning curve and Sophie says there were some key consumer differences that the brand had to work out and she learnt several lessons. After a couple of years when Wallace Cotton was more established she realised it was time to meet other Kiwi business owners, she got in touch with the New Zealand Business Women’s Network in London and was also introduced to Kea’s Regional Director.
“At the time I met with Kea’s Regional Director Sara Fogarty, Wallace Cotton was still very much experimenting with ways we could expand. I was looking to be connected with other Kiwi businesses who could complement us and where we could bring our audiences together. When Sara suggested Blunt Umbrellas it seemed like a very natural fit straight away. My store manager at the time had a Blunt Umbrella and she was always raving about it so I knew they were a quality brand.”
Sophie spoke to Blunt Umbrella UK Marketing Manager Jodi Zervos and says the two hit it off straight away.
“Meeting someone like Jodi was such a good connection for someone like myself to make. Jodi has worked for several companies in the UK and has been over here longer than I have so it was great to share some of our challenges and get her advice. However Blunt Umbrellas haven’t been established in the UK market as long as Wallace Cotton so I was also able to share advice with her. Wallace Cotton doesn’t do a lot of collaborations but I could tell very quickly that Blunt had all the same values we did, and it’s really hard to find that.”
The decision to form a collaboration happened quite quickly and teams back in New Zealand started making plans. Blunt Umbrellas Design Director, Greig Brebner says right from the get go it was obvious that the two companies were aligned.
“It’s the similarities between the two businesses that really appealed to Blunt. Wallace Cotton is a Kiwi business which prides themselves on using quality organic materials and an ethical supply chain. This is a really good alignment with Blunt’s own set values. Blunt aims to produce products that are highly sustainable and will last a lifetime. We felt there was a good ethical and value fit between the two brands. The other thing we really liked about working with Wallace Cotton is that the founders and the family are still heavily involved and very hands-on with the business which is exactly the same as Blunt. It was the coming together of two Kiwi family owned businesses looking to grow in the UK.”
The biggest decision for the two companies was to settle on a pattern for the umbrella, Sophie says they ended up deciding on one of their most popular floral prints which is perfect for a winter’s day. Greig says they knew straight away that the Wallace Cotton print would work well for blunt’s customers in both New Zealand and the UK.
“We needed a seamless pattern that works for both the user and the observer, we pride ourselves on our design aesthetics. We worked with Wallace cotton to make sure the pattern worked across the whole umbrella. We want it to be a pleasure to pull out of your bag, a pleasure to stand under and a pleasure for someone walking behind you to see. Birds and floral designs do particularly well for us and the deeper colours mean it will appeal both in New Zealand and the UK where the umbrella market is a lot more conservative and traditional and bright bold colours don’t appeal as much as they might in the southern hemisphere.”
It took a little more than a year from Sophie’s and Jodi’s first meeting for the umbrella to hit the shelves and Sophie says the process was so seamless because the two brands were so strongly aligned.
Adding an umbrella in one of our signature prints was an easy decision for our team, but the key was to find a quality umbrella that is built to last. We only collaborate with brands that have a strong focus on sustainability and quality, so Blunt was a natural fit for us as their whole story is about keeping that umbrella forever. My advice to other brands looking to collaborate would be to make sure your values and purpose align really closely with who you are choosing to work with. We knew the Blunt and Wallace Cotton audiences would align strongly right from our first meeting and that would be key to the success of the product.”
“I would really urge other offshore Kiwi businesses to connect with each other. The reason I am in the UK working for Wallace Cotton is because I believe in New Zealand business and I believe in New Zealand people doing great things and sharing them with the world.”
Since hitting the shelves the collaboration has been so successful the umbrella has sold out and is due to be restocked in the coming months. If you would like to see how Kea Connect can help your business please get in touch today.