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Moving on up

23 June 2023

Dunedin’s coolest fashion store Company has made a small move – with big impact.
Interview Josie Steenhart

Dunedin fashion retail institution Company Store turns 10 this year, and recently moved to a light, bright, beautiful new space on George Street, just a few doors down (and upstairs) from the original boutique.
Now fully settled in the elevated (both literally and figuratively) locale, owner and founder Sara Munro (also of label Company of Strangers) talks pastel paint colours, her passion for local product and picking exactly the right pieces of furniture.

You’ve just moved across the road and upstairs, right? How/why/when did the move come about?
We had been looking for a new space for about four years, I was just waiting for this one to pop up. I wanted to create a slower‑paced experience for our customers, something a little more hidden, something less ‘generic retail’.
I would stand in our old store and look upstairs at the beautiful light in the barber shop across from ours and think what a beautiful space it was… so I just manifested it, haha!

The aesthetic/vibe of the two stores is quite different…
Couldn’t be more different! Our old store was a little goth and intimidating. This one is warm, light and relaxed. It feels so welcoming once you get into it.

In our new space we pay tribute to all our local makers, collaborators and the many hands involved, with our unique hands motif, inspired from a past collaboration with artist Harley Jones.
I feel like retail over the years has become so branded and marketed in your face, fast-paced and stressful. I wanted to slow it down, and be able to really give breathing space to the beautiful products we have. A lot of time goes into what our makers create so our retail needed to reflect that.

How long have you been on George Street in total?
Ten years! It really has flown by.

Who did the interior design, and what was the concept/brief?
We did everything in-house. Amelia [Hope, design manager] and I are very DIY. We both loved the opportunity to design something other than clothing!
We dreamed up the idea of curved carpet and our glass brick wall was a nod to the local swimming pool in the ’80s. We wanted it to feel soft, comfortable yet elevated.

How/why did you decide on those beautiful pastel wall colours (and what are they?)
I didn’t want anything to be white. Generic retail white, so boring! It was important to us that everything was soft but needed to be warm and safe and that would work with any colours that come in over the years with the products we sell.

The pink on the back wall is actually called ‘Dunedin’ so we had to have that! The blue is ‘Birdlings Flat’. Both are Dulux colours.

Tell us about the furnishings…
The furnishings are all vintage, sourced over the last year. I am obsessed with furniture, so I kept my eye out for the right thing.

The Italian chairs, table, bamboo plinths and the Travertine counter are from Babelogue in Auckland. The soft paper lanterns are from Simon James.
The other pieces were custom-made from new and sourced second hand components. I don’t like everything to be new, I like things to carry their history with them.

And artworks…
The main canvas, by Philip James Frost, a friend and former Dunedin artist, hung in our original store but looks completely different now. The photographs are by Tim Hardy, a Melbourne-based photographer.

As well as clothing and jewellery you also sell some homeware – tell us a bit about the brands and products you choose to stock?
I am quite passionate about New Zealand-made, and that’s reflected in the skincare, candles and homewares we sell. I like to sell things I actually use myself – Maryse is a beautiful skincare brand, ethically packaged too, and locally made products like George & Edi from Wānaka.

The ceramics are all by Denise Porter-Howland of Eleventeen Ceramics. They range from ice cream shoes to banana vases to cigarette butts. They don’t sit on the shelf for long! I like things that reflect ordinary life but have a sense of humour.
I also love to support upcoming talent like Bebe May, a Christchurch-based jeweller, Frances Clothing from Martinborough, Nelle from Dunedin (not online yet because her clothes sell the second they hit the rack!).

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