One of my favourite brick-and-mortar stores in Auckland can be found on Karangahape Road. Crushes has been my default go-to for picking up gifts for the last few years – its highly curated selection of locally-made, second-hand, and eco-friendly goods and the considered ways in which they are packaged make shopping incredibly easy (and inspiring). What started out as an optimistic whim of two friends has now expanded into a thriving business that works with 60+ suppliers and is leading the way on shifting responsibility of doing good for the planet from customers to businesses. Here are the highlights of my Q&As with Rose Hope, one of the founders of Crushes, about the inspiring journey of her kickass “double-breasted partnership” with co-founder Sarah Firmston.
On the journey from starting The Bread and Butter Letter to rebranding as Crushes:
Crushes started out around the concept of a “shop that was like a weekend market, but one that would be open all week”. Initially they started out as a store under Sarah’s flat, but eventually the team moved to the “infinitely-more-busy Karangahape Road.” Rose says that this move pushed them to “quickly educate ourselves and refine our business model quite a lot; investing in the items that could offer more profits, starting our own in-house label, and being more efficient with our time and roles within our partnership.” Though Sarah and Rose came from completely different fields (urban planning and music), and initially found it challenging for people to take them seriously as businesswomen, they “eventually learnt how to speak up at boardroom tables”. Rose says that “now we both enjoy the assertiveness we have had to learn just to be heard, negotiate and to be taken seriously”.
On the curation process:
Both the aesthetic of and values underpinning all the products at Crushes are highly curated – that is obvious to any beholder. Rose says that for a product to be selected for their store, they “have to like it and want to use it or display it in our own homes. We also look for products that have interesting stories, quality materials, functionality, and they need to look and feel like they aren't mass-manufactured.” Their hard work sourcing work from the best makers and artists around the country means that Crushes has become a “home of conscious consumerism, where the customers can know that if there is something that they need to purchase… that they can come to Crushes knowing that we have done the hard work curating these ethical curious items for them.”
On their many changes to reduce the ecological footprint of their business:
Greenwashing runs rampant in marketing at the moment, but Crushes is a brand that I’ve always felt took their role in climate change seriously. Rose says that they made “small changes that make a world of difference with waste” such as removing plastic sleeves for cards and prints, swapping their courier bags to compostable and recyclable versions, and displaying jewellery on seed paper so that “people can literally put their packaging in soil and flowers will emerge feeding bees and the whenua!”
The fact that selling locally made and second hand clothing is such a prioritised part of their business means Crushes makes an incredibly important contribution to waste reduction. “…second hand clothing is literally recycling,” says Rose, “keeping goods out of landfill and not using any of the world’s precious resources to make new goods (2,700 litres of water to make 1 plain white tee)…” That, in conjunction with their passion for selling NZ-made goods, means that “our customers are shopping local, keeping their money, taxes and jobs in our country.”
On Crushes’ dreams for the future:
Every time I check the Crushes website, or wander into the store, there is some new development going on. For example, recently I noticed that Crushes has started a rental system for a limited range of their vintage pieces. When I asked Rose about the next big dream project Crushes would be launching, she didn’t want to give away too much. “But what I will say is that we are going to do more projects that save textiles from landfill, and creating more creative occasions for people to enjoy!”.Support Villainesse