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Idealog—in the ideas business

DeNada: Across the great divide

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Jo Learmonth (left) and Nada Matthews. Idealog September/October 2007, page 19

DeNada fashion is out of the incubator and into the fire

Running a company with the entire South Island dividing you probably isn’t the most convenient arrangement, but Jo Learmonth (left) and Nada Matthews have done just that. Their deNada fashion label has spent 18 months in Wellington’s Creative HQ business incubator—despite Learmonth basing herself in faraway Stewart Island—and graduated in June as the first apparel company to reach New Zealand Trade and Enterprise growth targets.

DeNada (‘no problem’ in Spanish) creative director Matthews and business manager Learmonth met at university in 1992 and dreamed of owning a business empire together. “It was never a question of would it happen, just when,” says Matthews. Learmonth became a food scientist and Matthews a physiotherapist until, she says, “I found myself 30 and single with a bit of money behind me,” and the pair decided to tackle the fashion market.

With the help of technology, clearly-defined business operations and Learmonth’s monthly visits, they have managed to minimise the problems of her living on Stewart Island with her family and Matthews at deNada HQ in Wellington. The Featherston St store hosts not only a vast collection of garments for women of different proportions—they have a particularly popular range of pants for those with long legs—but is also home to a coffee lounge, good music and art exhibitions. “Whatever it is in your life that rocks your world, we’ll come to you with it,” says Matthews.

The pair plans to add leather products and expand domestically, before taking the deNada brand to the rest of the world. With ambitious plans like these, 700 kilometres doesn’t seem so far after all.

Originally published in Idealog #11, page 19

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