As many of you will already know, in August of this year I travelled to Auckland, New Zealand to work on the Heaven Swimwear show.
As a show producer, fashion editor and stylist I was privileged to bring on board for this event, the beautiful Imogen Anthony who walked for the show. The first time ever that an Australian swimwear label has shown in NZ.
And walk she did.
Like a boss.
And … mustn’t forget the gorgeous boys!
This article however is to celebrate the designer behind this ever growing label Heaven who has now stepped in to some very large shoes after the Creative Director of Oz Swim Group, Kristian Chase has decided to concentrate solely on designing the globally acclaimed sister label Aqua Blu.
Enter Stephanie Cunningham …
Stephanie Cunningham started her Fashion Design degree in 2008 at Whitehouse. Starting with sixty in the course, it soon reduced to twenty five. Right from her point of graduation, Stephanie went straight to Hussy as an intern and describes this as most fortuitous as it pushed her into the industry straight away. They produced womens clothing, shoes and accessories. From there she went into a hands-on-role in sampling and designing for a girl who started a formal wear label. From there. she moved across to a label which produced a maternity line. As strange as that seems it gave Stephanie three solid years of well rounded and invaluable experience. As the fabrics were all stretch it provided Stephanie with the knowledge and all she needed to know about creating fashion “with a bump”. During this time, the label opened a physical store, so Stephanie learned to interact with customers to find out exactly what they wanted. After that she went to bridal wear, again dealing directly with customers which allowed her to see the design process right through from start to finish. She then started to design for herself and finally moved across into swimwear.
What is the only aesthetic you haven’t worked on so far?
Probably, denim …
In your experience, what does the customer want?
The customer wants “the familiar” but not something that has been done before. For example, women love the crop top but my job is not just to re-create the crop top. It is to take the popular item and add fresh, new elements to create a new masterpiece.
In my mind, this is the problem with Instagram brands who churn out the same thing. I think the design element is missing and does not consider what the customer wants.
What is your opinion of social media?
I love social media and as the same time, I hate social media.
People who follow Instagram closely seem to take so much notice of the influencers but some of the brands saturate Instagram so much with the same material that there is a real pressure for everyone to look the same.
Heaven has strongly pushed the view forward that our customers do not have to look like everyone else. I think we are helping people to realise that they don’t have to look like they are all the same and that in reality, colour and individuality speak volumes.
Why do you think people who follow Instagram feel like it’s important to look the same?
I think it’s because of the celebrity culture, and everyone is desperate to fit in.
Slightly older groups have the opinion that they don’t want to be the same, but the younger demographic does not know anything different and therefore, don’t have the confidence to be completely individual.
We are seeing lately a translation of older designs, and the revival culture is huge which really equals a trend. To me, this proves that we are not completely innovating as much as we could, and this is why we try to be as creative as we can at Heaven to fill in those fashion and social gaps.
What is your opinion of the influencer?
In some ways I think that the influencer is unnecessary due to the the constant saturation of that one person and one general style.
On the other hand, I feel that it can work well, as long as the influencer translates specifically to the brand that they are aligned with.
There is an obsessive tendency around the culture of Instagram and influencers, so I would prefer to see “quality over quantity”. The exposure should be about the brand, not the influencer.
The saturation point has reached an all time high and over exposure can reverse the benefits to a brand.
At Heaven we are extremely careful to research the value of the influencer to make sure that it is right for our brand and not just an avenue to provide the influencer with free content.
What is your opinion of paid posts on Instagram?
In my opinion that would be need to be attached to specific strategy and my feeling is many Instagram brands are fleeting and this is the reason why.
What do you think about influencers sitting in the FROW at events?
I think the same strategy applies, and for my brand it is important that loyalty for our customers is paramount.
The industry people who attend our shows actually bring something to the event, the industry, the brand and its culture. They are not just there for the selfies.
It is the difference between having a brand that has the real world aspects; bricks and mortar office space, staff, sewing rooms, etc and the desire to be globally successful and recognised. Very different to some of todays “Instagram” brands.
What keeps the Heaven brand so well patronised and popular is the attention you pay to your customers and quite simply the quality. Would you agree?
Yes. We work hard at those aspects and they have always been at the pinnacle of our brand motivation.
I was reading an article the other day about the huge problem of things being worn, and then returned in massive numbers via online shopping portals. What is your view about this problem?
I think it comes back to the same old problem that we can’t see, feel and try the garment and therefore our motivation becomes purchasing for the instant adrenalin rush of something new, the Instagram post and the ultimate “like”. It is no longer about the garment, but more so about the moment.
Where do you see the future of Heaven?
Well, quite literally at the moment? … the sky’s the limit.
Funny about that … it is after all called Heaven 🙂
Model Extraordinaire | Imogen Anthony
Imogen’s Team | JayMillionaires
Photography | Thanks to Fiona Goodall of Getty Images for the photographs.
Check out the beautiful, luxurious garments by Heaven.
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Until next time,