Janelle Hinch: Proudly NZ Made

“I’d close down before I compromise.” Ohakune-based designer Janelle Hinch talks about her commitment to producing New Zealand made, conscience clear clothing.

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“My father used to take us skiing in Ohakune every year. It was always the best time of the year. Ohakune became my happy place. And when it was my time to choose where I wanted to live, where would I live other than my happy place?”

Achieving a healthy work life balance and lower living costs were big motivators for fashion designer Janelle Hinch to leave Auckland and move to Ohakune. This year marks her 17th winter in Ohakune. In the past she’s chosen to spend her summers chasing the snow in the northern hemisphere, but that trend is changing now she said, with three Ohakune summers under her belt and more to come as summer tourism takes off in the Ruapehu region.

Janelle runs The Crafthaus, an Ohakune store housing her two fashion labels Janelle Hinch, and Opus Fresh, as well as showcasing the work of 11 local artists and crafters. One of the artists is an 86 year old woodworker, who she said wouldn’t have the skills or inclination to create his own brand and marketing presence. For him and other artists in the same boat, she has created ‘The Well and Good Collective,” and artists without their own branding sell work at The Crafthaus under this label.  Opportunities to show their work were very limited before, and most relied on the occasional market, which can be pretty time consuming and unrewarding at times. “My role is to encourage people to be more creative and make it easy for them.”

Producing what Janelle refers to as “conscience-clear clothing,” while rewarding, has its challenges. “There is certainly a difficulty in being able to bring things to market when you’re paying $25 an hour for labour and your competitors are paying $0.25,” she said. With only a handful of knitting mills still left in New Zealand, financially it’s tempting to move offshore, but it’s not something Janelle said she would ever compromise on. Favouring wool and supporting locally made fabrics, Janelle said she is able to track where they were milled and even the farm the wool came from. “I was brought up to treat people how you want to be treated. I’d close down before I compromise.”

“My accountant disagrees with my method, but I’d rather be happy and feel good about my work than have a lot of money in the bank,” she said. Giving the analogy of free range eggs, where people choose to pay more for a product they know has been produced in an ethical way, Janelle said her customers are very vocal about how they are choosing her brand specifically to support New Zealand made products. “Every dollar you spend is a vote towards the type of world you want to live in. If you don’t give them your money, then it does make a difference. Lots of little voices make a difference.”

As a little voice, Janelle is having a big impact. She is a brand partner in the Campaign for Wool, and was invited to show her work alongside well-known fashion names like Liz Mitchell at Shear Fashion, a fashion event held at the Golden Shears highlighting the versatility of New Zealand wool.

Comparing city life with country living Janelle said, “There’s the opportunity to be a lot more original here. There’s a lot of ‘noise’ in the city, and living in that noise you can’t help but reproduce what you see. I’m definitely influenced by the environment here. The whites and greys are like the storm clouds with fresh snow, the reds are like mountain scoria. Then there’s the mossy green of the bush and caramels of the tussocks.”

Janelle said she really enjoys the sense of community present in small towns. “Living in Auckland our house was surrounded by six foot fences, and we never knew our neighbours, but it’s not like that here. Everyone knows each other, and I think people are more likely to support and encourage you.”

For more about Janelle and her store The Crafthaus, visit www.thecrafthaus.co.nz

Written by

Christine Mackintosh

28 Jun 2017

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