Our interview series is all about powerhouse women and men who inspire us through their work, creativity, business, and passion. At Papier hq we are all about supporting and uplifting one another. These amazing individuals are here to share some of their expertise. Introducing founder and CEO Kathryn Wilson from Kathryn Wilson shoes...
This week for our interview series we had the privilege of sitting down with the lovely Kathryn Wilson, New Zealand's premier footwear designer. Leading in her industry, Kathryn has run her own shoe label since 2003. We caught up with Kathryn to have a chat about her business journey, balancing mum and work life, as well as advice she has for aspiring entrepreneurs.
1. Your shoes are just gorgeous! How did Kathryn Wilson shoes come about?
I launched the brand in 2003 after winning an AMP scholarship for shoe design, I was 22 years old and LOVED shoes and wanted to make a career out of doing something I loved. We started with seven styles and sold them into seven wholesale accounts. We now sell to over 80 stores throughout NZ and produce 30-40 new styles each season.
2. What was the most significant business challenge that you have encountered and grown from?
There have been several challenges over the last 18 years in business, most of them around logistics. It can be complicated working with a supply chain outside of NZ and relying on all parties to meet deadlines and clearance requirements to avoid delays and added costs . We have had large shipments arrive into NZ and not clear customs due to regulations around fumigation of the containers that had been trans-shipped etc which meant orders have had to be re-made urgently and at our cost to not let down our retailers. It’s a balancing act making sure all cogs in the wheel are turning across all suppliers!!
3. What has been your biggest achievement? When was the last time you thought 'wow I can't believe I just did that'?
A career highlight for me personally was hosting an event in NZ for Dato Jimmy Choo and spending a few days introducing him to my team and visiting my stores. Another highlight was when Beyonce posted a pair of my shoes onto her Instagram account to 100million followers.
4. Which upcoming project or endeavor are you most excited for?
2021 brings the launch of our new ‘climate friendly’ collection of footwear named KIND by Kathryn Wilson. These styles are made from recycled leather or textile uppers and sustainably considered components that will be delivered into stores next week. We will donate $10 from each pair sold to Carbon Click who are regenerating NZ native forest in Kaikoura to help off-set our carbon emissions. We are hoping this is the beginning of our sustainability journey as a brand and look forward to doing more styles each season to expand our offering of footwear with a KINDER footprint.
5. Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs or women and men wanting to start a business?
Get started now, be brave, focused and open-minded to learn from those around you. Surround yourself with passionate, excited, optimistic people to come along the journey with you and involve them in your decision-making and shared successes.
6. How would you describe your home style?
Classic, clean lines, bright and light, calm.
7. Can you share one of your top styling tips with our community?
Invest in timeless pieces that you will cherish and keep, things that will last and not date. Own less but buy quality items.
8. What have been your favourite Kathryn Wilson shoes to date?
That’s a tricky one, I have a lot of favourites. One of my first designs was a classic ballet shoe that we still have in production today. I wear these a lot as they are a classic style that suits many occasions. I also live in our seasonal trainers which are released each season with new upper detailing. The infamous ‘Jimmy Boot’ was an all time favourite ‘biker style’ boot that can be worn all year around with dresses, jeans or to the office.
9. Work life balance can sometimes be a huge challenge especially as a mum. How do you juggle this?
I don’t have a magic answer, life is busy at work and at home. Our family has had great support from nannies at home who help with the kids and awesome team members at work who help to share the load in the business when you can’t be there. One of the most important things is to remember to make time for yourself so you can be a better mum and better boss / colleague. You need to have your own cup full to have the energy to support others. Go for that bush walk, read a great book, book in yoga or pilates for some quiet time to yourself and make sure to see your friends or loved ones as often as possible to share the journey / ups and downs with you.