Businesswoman and shoe designer Kathryn Wilson is one of the speakers at the first indulge Speaker Collective of the year.
From the age of 16, Kathryn Wilson knew designing shoes was how she wanted to make her mark on the world.
Fast forward to 2016 and Wilson has gone a long way to fulfilling her dream – her shoes sell in more than 100 boutique stores across the country, she has opened three of her own shops in Auckland, has a successful online store and her shoes have been worn by the likes of Beyonce.
Wilson will be sharing the story of her business success at the Indulge Speaker Collective on May 5 – supported by Tranquillo Beauty Clinic, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, Baycourt Community & Arts Centre and Fletcher Print – along with parenting expert Jenny Hale and businessman turned ultra distance hiker Max Mason.
Wilson’s story begins in Papakura where, as a teenager, she attended Rosehill College and excelled in art and mathematics. She was encouraged by her mother to choose a career that allowed her to make the most of her creative skills.
“I really wanted to be a shoe designer. From about the age of 16 I had decided that this was my dream career, so I enrolled in a course at AUT in fashion and technology when I was 17, which would gain me entry into a Bachelor of Design degree at Massey University,” Wilson says.
Wilson’s lecturers would let her complete assignments on footwear rather than clothing where possible within the curriculum.
She did weekly work experience in Karen Walker’s workroom while studying, which gave her “a fantastic insight” into the New Zealand fashion industry.
Kathryn Wilson the brand was launched in 2003 and Wilson says her aim was to create innovative and playful footwear for women who liked to wear something different.
“I was a 22-year-old graduate who wanted to design shoes that empowered women by making them feel good in what they were wearing and ready to take on the world. These are our brand values we celebrate with our customers, and we encourage all of our staff to ensure the in-store and online experience with Kathryn Wilson footwear follows this philosophy.”
Eight years after her brand was launched, Wilson established the website she considers her fourth retail store, but she says physical stores are still hugely important. “They go hand-in-hand. Our online store complements the retail stores and vice versa.”
The same year, Wilson launched her Miss Wilson brand, a line that is available through retail stores. This protected the boutique stores’ exclusive stocking of the Kathryn Wilson brand within their area and targeted a different market. The Famous Five collection was launched in 2013 as a celebration of Kathryn Wilson’s 10-year anniversary, designed as a “best of” collection.
Not only has Beyonce donned a pair of Kathryn Wilsons, the brand has been spotted on the feet of New Zealand names including musicians, actors and television personalities – although Wilson does not name drop.
One name she is happy to mention is that of role model Jimmy Choo, whom she describes as “a wonderful, humble, talented artist who I have a lot of respect for”.
“I really respect that idea and that he now spends his days still as passionate about his product as he ever was, being able to nurture and teach the next generation of designers around the world, passing on his knowledge to students and apprentices.
“I only hope that at some point in my career I can do the same.”
The biggest challenges in Wilson’s career are familiar to any woman juggling work and family – just add in a company manufacturing products in eight different countries.
When she’s not at the office, Wilson goes for walks or does yoga with friends, and spends any time she can with her young family.
“I have learned to separate my home life and work life by making sure our home is a sacred, calm space where we can both switch off and not be tempted to work through the night,” she says.
“I believe this helps with stress levels as you can balance your life and put life into perspective. Worrying about something overnight doesn’t change the outcome of the situation.”
To hear more about Kathryn Wilson’s business challenges and success purchase your tickets today at bayofplentytimes.co.nz.
WHAT: Indulge Speaker Collective
WHEN: Thursday, May 5. Doors open 6pm, speakers start 6.30pm
WHERE: Baycourt Community & Arts Centre
TICKETS: VIP $40 – includes priority seating and VIP gift.