After taking over Muse Boutique in 2015, Olivia Vincent has successfully cemented the Teed Street store as a high-end destination fashion boutique which draws loyal customers from all over the country. Renowned for its curated selection of luxury women’s clothing and accessories, Muse Boutique is home to covetable designers such as Christopher Esber, Tibi, L’Agence, Self Portrait and Georgia Alice. As well as being a prominent fashion buyer, Vincent has brought her own styling and fashion expertise to the forefront, designing her own Muse Cashmere line, which is sold exclusively in-store. Zara Overton spoke with Olivia about all things fashion and Muse related…
N. Since taking ownership in 2015, you have cemented Muse Boutique as one the best luxury designer boutiques in NZ, no small feat in the competitive world of retail! What made you decide that you wanted have your own store/Muse?
I’ve always adored Muse. I remember visiting the store years ago and admiring the selection of labels. My mother-in-law (to be) and her business partner offered to sell me the business almost three years ago. I couldn’t believe it – I said yes straight away! Owning my own store was a natural progression for me, having worked in retail when I was younger. I love spending time with clients, and have always tried to offer an authentic, personal experience with everyone I meet.
N. When did you know that you wanted to have a career in fashion? How did you get started?
While I had worked in retail since the age of 16, I wasn’t sure which avenue to go down in fashion and actually studied to be a primary school teacher. After a year, I moved to London and worked as a Brand Specialist for Vivienne Westwood. It was my dream job! I knew then that this industry was where I belonged.
N. The store has recently had a complete new fit out, designed by architect extraordinaire Rufus Knight. Can you tell us about the new design?
I felt like it was the right time to show Muse’s vision of contemporary fashion. We wanted to celebrate the tactile luxury of our exclusive labels, and build a welcoming environment where customers can linger, chat and stay a while. The decision to use Rufus was easy. He’s transformed the shop into a beautiful space worthy of the international collections we represent. As a whole, the new look is bold, with strong colours used in harmony with Rosso Levanto marble, aged brass and specialist plaster finishes.
N. You launched Muse Cashmere last year and have continued to expand the line with a new collection release this year. What inspired you to start your own Cashmere line?
I was at a networking event in New York during fashion week and met a girl studying sustainable business at Columbia. She mentioned her family owned a small cashmere factory in Nepal, and I got in touch the very next day. Cashmere has always been one of my favourite things to wear, it’s so soft and is perfect for New Zealand’s ever-changing weather. It made sense to build an in- house line; I couldn’t find styles I loved for the store from other brands.
N. Can you tell us a bit about the design process?
The collections we produce with Muse Cashmere are designed with our customers in mind, and we are lucky enough to receive constructive feedback all the time which is a huge help.
We begin with lots of simple sketches, before refining these down to an edit of options and a colour palette. From here, my team and I progressively work towards detailed final designs that explore the intricacies of each piece. For example ribbing, sleeve detail, shape etc. From here, our manufacturers make samples for us, and then we’ll go back and forth until we’re 100% happy with the final product. We also do lots of wear and wash testing ourselves.
N. Muse’s social media following has continued to grow and tends to be a way that you document new in store arrivals and brands. How has social media changed the way you work?
Social media has really changed our business for the better. It’s constant and relentless, and allows us to interact with clients outside of store hours at a time that suits them. We’re able to showcase new product instantly, our followers don’t have to be in store the moment it arrives to see it. It’s crazy how fast it is. We get messages as soon as we post something. I love that our customers can consider an item at home before coming in to try it on.
N. In what is becoming a more challenging retail environment, how do you compete with online shopping? Does the Muse customer value in store customer experience over online shopping?
We offer both, we have an online store as well as the Teed Street space, and the two platforms complement each other really well. Someone might pop into store after seeing something on the website they liked, but want to try in person, or vice versa. Personally, I prefer to shop in store. While you can always see the fabric composition online you’re never going to be able to feel it, or see how it sits on the body until you try it on. However one of the greatest things about online is being able to order a pair of pants at home on a Thursday night with a glass of wine, and have them arrive the next day! Like social media, it means clients are able to still be thinking about MUSE once the doors close at night.
N. Congratulations on recently winning the Young Business Person of the Year award at the 2017 Newmarket Business Awards. What does winning the award mean to you?
It was so special to be recognised and such a beautiful evening. It’s also fantastic that businesses in the Newmarket area are recognised – there’s a lot of talent out there and we all contribute to the success of the shopping district as a whole.
N. Who are your favourite New Zealand designers?
Georgia Alice has been strong for several years now, we love having her collections in store, especially the tailoring. Maggie Marilyn is another great newcomer I’d like to see more of.
N. When buying for upcoming collections, who is the Muse customer and how do you buy for her?
I tend to buy pieces with a specific person in mind. I have such a close relationship with our clients – they’re friends. Often I’ll see a piece and think yes, so-and-so will love that. It’s almost like a personal shopping service. I also buy what I love. If I love it there’s a good chance someone else will! A lot of it comes down to instinct.
N. It’s 10am on a Sunday morning, where will we find you and what are you doing?
I’ll be at the Sunday produce markets with my family or brunching with my friends.
N. What has been a defining moment in your career to date?
Deciding to take a leap and buy the business.
N. What is Newmarket’s best kept secret?
There’s so many! The peking duck down the alley off Teed Street is incredible, so easy for a takeaway dinner with friends. Also, this is probably the worst kept secret in Newmarket, but I’d have to say &Sushi. I get it nearly every day. Karakter mid-century furniture on Melrose Street and M11 Hair on McColl Street.
N. How would your best friend describe your personal style aesthetic?
I think she’d probably say glamorous but practical for everyday. I wear clothing that connects to me personally, and because my beauty regime is quite simple, there’s lots of room to experiment.
N. What’s on your wardrobe wishlist right now?
Christian Dior boots (shoes are a huge weakness for me), and a Victoria Beckham wool felt coat that arrives in store next month.
N. What has been your best fashion investment?
Margiela boots. I’ve got three pairs, I wear them every single day. They’re the most comfortable boot. Ever. When I’m on the shop floor it’s essential to feel comfortable. Also Christopher Esber’s wide-leg satin pants. They’re bias cut, but in a thick satin so they don’t cling. They look amazing on every single person who tries them on, no matter what height or size. They’re great for travelling as they don’t crinkle!
N. And your worst?
Christian Louboutin heels. They look so great on all the celebrities but I don’t know how they walk in them.
N. What’s next for Muse?
Opening the refurbished store! Very excited to show everyone the transformation.