Beauty and the Boutique: Claudia Renford chats to Alana Clarke
She’s young, confident and inspiring the younger generation of Shore women with a fashion-forward boutique set among a power play of stores that are creating a buzz in Takapuna, as the hotspot to shop on The Shore. Alana Clarke from Lana Boutique only opened the doors to her stylish, modern boutique, in 2013 as part of the visionary development of the McKenzies group’s precinct, and already she is fast becoming one of the go-to shops on the Shore for Gen Y girls.
And it’s no wonder - since stepping into Lana Boutique, is like stepping into your best friends walk in wardrobe (well, ok…her Kardashian-sized wardrobe!).
The crisp white walls in the spacious shop are adorned with racks of colour coordinated catwalk collections from respected designers, such as Bec & Bridge, Maurie & Eve, One Teaspoon, Cameo, Keepsake, Senso, Saben and Zulu and Zephyr, with many more to come. Shelves not only house the latest collection of accessories from bags to bangles, but also some of her favourite framed images and fresh flowers – all beautifully coordinated, of course – it’s her signature style. “From as young as four, I started making wardrobe decisions - I would refuse to wear anything that wasn’t colour coordinated and when I wore my favourite black polka dot dress I insisted I ate my dinner off a black plate!” She laughs as she reflects on her desire to be colour coordinated even back then.
Move towards the back of the store, and you have a very comfy couch for friends (or boyfriends) to perch, while you try on the latest runway looks – already perfectly styled up for you from the mix and match racks.
The feel is modern and feminine (without being overtly girly), and reflects the casual cool lifestyle of the Shore.
“The Lana Boutique girl is fashion-forward, follows the latest trends and isn’t afraid to try something new,” explains Alana. “She dresses pretty and flirty but isn’t too over-dressed or flashy. She can go from beach to bar in an instant with our range,” she adds.
It helps too that Alana and her friendly sales staff can relate well to their customers – all being about the same age as their target audience. The young entrepreneur is only 25 and is successfully growing her business by keeping abreast of the latest fashions via all forms of social media and listening to her customers and staff.
“I do a lot of research on trends, what “it girls” and celebrities are wearing, but it always comes down to ‘what will the customer love?’ and I will often message my close girlfriends or ask one of my sales assistants their opinion when buying product.” But, she adds, it’s something her mother taught her from a young age about shopping and buying, that sticks when it comes to committing to a large wholesale range.
“When I am looking at a range I firstly think about what Mum taught me about shopping and buying - The 3C’s; Cut, Colour and Cloth. This is so important because the garment may be a gorgeous colour, but the fabric may be of low quality and not warrant its price point. It is always best if you can touch and feel the garments before you commit to a large wholesale order,” she says.
Like most young teens, she started her career in retail as a sales assistant while studying for her degree in marketing and finance. Upon completion of her studies, and a brief stint in the marketing world, she realised her love of fashion was where she wanted to be, and landed a job with one of New Zealand’s fashion icons - Trelise Cooper. While working on fashion shows and selling a high-end fashion product, Alana knew she had found her calling. But it was while holidaying in Europe, that she knew she wanted to start up her own store – and Lana Boutique was developed.
“My Dad is my business mentor and he gave me the confidence I needed to start my own business,” she reflects. Believing location to be one of the important factors when starting up a new company, she was thrilled to find the site at McKenzies precinct.
“Location was a huge part in my plan for success, and I knew we had found it when we got the site at the McKenzies precinct in Takapuna. We have grown and thrived from day one,” she smiles.
So what advice can she give to other young, aspiring people wanting to go into the business?
“Do your research. Have a unique point of difference. Use competitors to an advantage to further your success. Location – choose well, in an ‘up and coming’ area. Social media is a great tool to reach the masses - use it daily, update your website weekly and send out a newsletter monthly. Instagram and Facebook work so well in my business - I started my business Facebook page before the store was even open and I think this contributed greatly to its success. Customer retention is so important and you must learn that the customer is always right. Keeping a clean premises is important too because you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Wise words from this hard working and determined star of the Shore, who is proving that loving what you do, can build great success – even in one so young!