Fashion designer Denise L’Estrange-Corbet has been under the gun this week after The Spinoff website revealed her label World had for seven years sold garments made in Bangladesh and China and labelled “Fabrique en Nouvelle Zelande” (Made in New Zealand). This is despite L’Estrange-Corbet being a strong critic over the years of other NZ fashion manufacturerers for selling out and moving production offshore. How to dig herself out of this hole? Brand expert Jill Brinsdon, founder of Tricky, has some humble advice for Dame Denise.

Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

So it turns out that after throwing stones at a competitor’s lack of commitment to manufacturing in New Zealand, Denise L’Estrange Corbet’s quirky and quite wonderful brand World isn’t much better.

Her glasshouse is smashed to pieces with her own rocks and pebbles. That’s her daughter Pebbles posting hate mail on Instagram to anyone who disagrees with her mum.

Apparently World does manufacture some things in New Zealand – namely the swing tags on the t-shirts that are made in Bangladesh. So when the garment’s swing tag says Made in New Zealand (although in French; I know I’m confused too) it means the swing tag is made in New Zealand. 

And anyone who disagrees with Dame Denise’s decree that this is a perfectly legitimate position to take can take a running jump. But in less lady-like words.

What is this doing to the World brand? To be honest, it has a streak of anarchy well imbedded in its strongly beating heart so damn the torpedoes, I think it will be ok. 

It’s Denise’s personal brand that has taken the hit, and the way she’s been flailing about in the media, there’s little chance of repair in the short term.

For a person working in the public arena, a robust reputation is imperative. And Denise’s work with various charities would suggest she understands this. But there are a few missing components in this brand’s behaviour at the moment that we greatly value in our famous folk. Integrity, authenticity, humility? Right now? Not so much.   

Maybe it’s infamy she’s seeking rather than respect. If that’s the case, her campaign is working well.

What would I advise should she give me a call? (She won’t, but go with me here.)  

I’d say:

– Stop talking. Just. Stop. Talking;

– Get Pebbles to stop hate mailing anyone who dares to speak against your stand;

– Review your position. What could you have done better?

– Acknowledge what you could have done better;

– Pay respect to your industry, acknowledge how hard your colleagues work to produce best quality against stiff global competition;

– Take a leadership line that’s still true to you, something about how ‘Designed in New Zealand’ is the new relevance;

– Review the provenance of all World output;

– Quietly change all your tags.

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