The Ingrid Starnes Vulcan Lane store (Photo: Duncan Innes)

Fashion house Ingrid Starnes to close all retail as Commercial Bay store opens

The local fashion industry takes another hit with Ingrid Starnes closing its stores after more than a decade.

Fashion brand Ingrid Starnes has announced it’s closing the retail arm of its business due to the impacts of Covid-19.

Its new store opening in Commercial Bay on Thursday and its current store in Ponsonby will remain open until the end of August selling pieces from its final winter collection. Its store on Vulcan Lane in Auckland’s CBD has already closed after reaching the end of its lease.

In a statement to customers this morning, Ingrid Starnes explained that the Covid-19 lockdown had severely impacted its business with sales down more than 80% and wholesale orders disrupted and cancelled. 

“We worked out really quickly that the disruption caused by Covid meant the business was on really shaky ground,” co-founder Simon Pound told The Spinoff. “We signed up for the new store in November and then Covid happened. We’d taken on extra debt, we’d made extra stock, and as a result, we were caught at full stretch.

“In order to be a responsible business, we didn’t really have any other option because we could get into a position where we could let down our suppliers and our staff … Right now, we have more stock and assets than liabilities, but if we were to make another season that wouldn’t be the case.”

Fashion designer and co-founder Ingrid Starnes and Simon Pound

In April, Ingrid Starnes accessed the wage subsidy and received just under $59,000 to keep its 10 staff members in employment. Later that month, it launched an equity crowdfund with the aim of raising $500,000 to help keep the company afloat. However, the campaign was unsuccessful after failing to reach its $200,000 minimum by May 19 which meant no funds were taken. 

“We were just amazed by the support that did come in [from the campaign]. It’s such a tough time and so many people are facing changes in their own circumstances so the fact that the crowdfund wasn’t successful is quite understandable and reasonable in a way,” said Pound, who also hosts The Spinoff’s Business Is Boring podcast. 

“[But] it’s really sad and it’s devastating. We’ve built the business up over 10 years and we’ve got this amazing team that’s now going to be made redundant.”

With the new store in Commercial Bay finally set to open after months of delays, Pound said it was a “bittersweet” feeling. “The people behind the precinct have helped us move to a limited-time store and they’ve been really constructive through the whole process,” he said. It’s sad though because it’s a beautiful store, a beautiful venue, but Covid’s hit a lot of people and we’re just one of the many businesses who’ve been caught.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wearing a white silk top by Ingrid Starnes on the cover of Time magazine

It’s tough times for the local fashion industry right now. This week, clothing chain Max announced it was closing 17 stores with a number of staff facing redundancy. In May, Juliette Hogan announced it was closing its bridal channel at the end of June to “refocus” its energy on its main collection and retail stores. And in February, Harman Grubisa came to a sudden end after more than five successful years on the scene.

In the long term, Pound said Ingrid Starnes would be looking to pivot being an “online-first, made-to-order” brand which would include its bridal offerings. “We’re trying to clear all our responsibilities first … but we’ll be continuing in some way, the shape of which we’ll have to work out.”



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