It's not every day you can pick up a pair of Manolo Blahniks or Jimmy Choo's at a fraction of the price, and without jumping on a plane to Saks Fifth Avenue. But at Toni Church's Renew Style (formerly Sweetie) in St Vincent Ave, you can satisfy all your 'designer' desires in one hit.
This doesn't seem like the average second-hand clothing shop Toni, can you explain how your shop works?
We sell by consignment - people bring us their clothes, and we sell them on behalf - so we're more of a service provider.
What sort of people bring their clothes to you?
Fashionable, stylish women. Women who refresh their wardrobe every season. Women who travel the world. There's such a mix, and we are always fully stocked - there's never a shortage of clothes here!
And what sort of people buy clothes from here?
People with their own individual style. We have such a huge collection of garments, it allows people to pull together unique outfits that really reflect their personal style. It reminds me of a Coco Chanel quote "...fashion, you see, goes out of fashion. Style never".
Does your stock follow the current fashion trends?
I do select stock with current fashion trends in mind. We have quality designer labels, often from Europe, a season ahead of us.
Do you think the perception of second-hand, or recycled, clothing has changed from what it used to be?
Absolutely. It used to be very looked down upon, people would sneak in the door hoping not to be seen! But now, it's a savvy way to shop.
Do you have to wash items that come in?
No, I'm not running a laundry service! Everything has to be freshly laundered and dry-cleaned.
Does retail get boring?
I never have time to get bored! Consignors drop in with new garments, handbags and shoes for me to select from. There is so much behind-the-scenes work to be done - pricing, inventory control, giving customers personalised styling advice.
Do you feel disadvantaged, tucked away round the corner from the main street?
Not really, one of the best things about being off the main drag is that we have our own customer parking! And having the library across the road is brilliant... people who want to touch and feel real books are generally the sort who also want to feel fabric, touch the clothes. I get a lot of regulars who come in every week.
How often can people expect to see new stock?
Well I have new clothing, handbags, shoes, accessories, coming in each day. I'd say in a month, around 50 percent of the shop will be new stock.
Have designer labels always been at the core of the business?
It started 20 years ago, when model Nicky Watson opened the shop to sell her own clothes. Now we have Chanel, Yves St Laurent and Armani. We have a whole section for NZ designers too - Karen Walker, Trelise Cooper, Adrienne Winkelmann.
What do you like most about working here?
I have three sons who are still living at home, so this is my 'girl' fix! I also love helping people to look and feel great. I'm so proud of my ever-evolving boutique!
What's your background?
I did an environmental design degree, specialising in interior design, which led to commercial and retail design and shop-fitting. Then when I had children I continued that part-time, and also worked here one day a week. Funnily enough I used to 'sneak' in here - working in interior deisgn I had to look fab all the time, and this was back in the days when recycled clothing hadn't yet become cool.
Have you always had an interest in clothing?
Well I got my first sewing machine at five, and my mother had her own shop (The Clothesline at Greenwoods Corner) so I've always been around clothes. When I was at EGGS I won all the clothing and design awards! And even though my true passion is for furniture and kitchen design, my background allows me to see the marriage between architecture and clothing... it's all about proportion.
Is it just you who works here?
No, we also have the wonderful Heather, who I've known for 35 years. She's been a part of our family business for a very long time - people often mistake her as being my mother!
What's your personal style?
I'd say feminine, contemporary. Clothes that flatter the body shape. Oh, and heels. Definitely heels, and a pop of colour. Today I'm wearing two of my favourite labels - World and Gucci.
Have you always lived in Remuera?
I'm a Remuera girl born and bred, and my sons all went to local schools.
Do you have any future plans for Renew?
To continue to provide top quality local, and worldwide, designer labels. Growth in social media, and an online portal so that consignors can check their sales status.
Photography by Vanita Andrews and words by Fiona Wilson.