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Thompsons set to launch eco-friendly fashion label

November 25, 2020

2021 will be a big year for power couple Kelsi and Ashford Thompson who are set to launch their own fashion label.

EIT students Kelsi and Ashford Thompson are fulfilling their dream to launch their own fashion label, Thompson Aotearoa. Their garments will make their first appearance on the catwalk at the IDEAschool Arts Festival on November 27.

Kelsi and Ashford met eleven years ago in Hawke’s Bay. After finishing high school they moved to Wellington, where Kelsi completed a degree in English and Classical Studies and Ashford graduated with a Bachelor in Art History and Classical Studies.

Moving to Sydney opened a new chapter in their life and also paved the way to a career in fashion. Ashford worked as merchandiser for big clothing companies such as Zara as well as more boutique Australian designers, while Kelsi gained industry experience as retail store manager and in online customer service.

The couple had the idea of starting their own label floating around in their heads for quite a while. A six-week sewing course sparked Ashford’s passion. I really loved the problem-solving aspect of it. My tutor told me that I had a talent for it which gave me extra confidence.” Through self-teaching, Ashford learned more and more skills.

Eventually Ashford and Kelsi got sick of the big city and relocated to Fremantle on the West Coast. “At that stage we were already planning to return to Hawke’s Bay so living in a smaller town was a nice transition. I think we would have been shocked to move from Sydney straight back to Napier.”

After seven eventful years in Australia, their entrepreneurial spirit drove them back to Napier. “We wanted to put our ideas into action and knew that we needed to study to get the necessary skills,” they say. Ashford enrolled in a Diploma in Fashion while Kelsi, who is managing the project, found that the Graduate Diploma in Business was the ideal qualification for her.

Kelsi feels lucky to have been “adopted” by Ashford’s fashion class. “The tutors also became my mentors. I was able to join the class on their industry trip to Auckland which gave me great insights about the industry. It was heartening to see that there are many small fashion businesses thriving and that nothing is impossible.”

As part of her programme Kelsi developed a business plan, a marketing and pricing strategy, created a logo and did market research while scoping out the right fabric suppliers. Ashford, on the other side, perfected his design skills and also picked their fashion brand niche.

Sustainability is core to their business. Their garments will be a response to fast fashion proving that you can be stylish without harming the environment. Ashford is utilising natural fibres, repurposing used fabrics and also making the most of deadstock fabric which would go to landfill otherwise. “Our garments are unisex, inclusive, fun and easy to wear and can be styled in many different ways. A good mix of practical and fashionable. We are also prepared to educate our customers by telling the full story of our garments,” they say.