by Kate Gordon
Events Clothing supplies the crew gear for yachts such as the J-Class Ranger - Events Clothing’s 20-year celebration
Auckland-based superyacht, marine and business clothing specialist Events Clothing has just secured a contract to supply the crew uniforms for one of the biggest motor yachts ever built in Europe.
The 60-strong crew from Italian-built MY Serene, 134 metres in length and six levels high, will soon wear an extensive uniform designed by the Events Clothing team.
As Events Clothing celebrates its 20th year in business, the Serene uniform contract illustrates the company’s well-respected reputation as a trusted and valued supplier to the mega rich owners of luxury yachts from Russia, France, Italy, the UK, the US and beyond.
But back when the company was formed 20 years ago Events Clothing director Owen Rutter had a very different focus – the fledging company’s prospective clients were hardcore yacht racing crews and the relatively untapped local corporate apparel market.
In 1991, Rutter’s experience as a professional sailor and a six-year stint with a New Zealand marine company saw him consider setting up his own marine clothing agency. A discussion with Ross Munro, who held the local distribution rights for top-class sailing brand Musto, saw the pair establish Events Clothing as a non-retail Musto outlet.
'Our goals were pretty straightforward,' says Rutter. 'I knew a lot of sailing crews and Ross was manufacturing Musto under licence, one of the best brands of technical marine clothing, in New Zealand.'
With the business successfully established, further opportunities in the primarily domestic corporate apparel and technical sailing gear came about a few years later when Munro acquired Line 7, the well-respected New Zealand marine clothing line.
'This was a little before the 1995 America’s Cup challenge headed by Sir Peter Blake where Ross and I came on board as the official clothing suppliers working with the Team New Zealand sponsors ENZA, Lotto, Toyota, Steinlager and TVNZ.'
After the historic America’s Cup win in San Diego, Rutter says the profile of Line 7 escalated.
'Our business was still 80 per cent domestic with corporate uniforms, promotional gear, golf shirts and the like forming most of product lines we sold. In the late ‘90s the rest of our business came from outfitting race crews for events like the Volvo Round the World Race and numerous one-design race teams such as the One Tonne Cup, Farr 40s and TP52s.'
The exciting defence of the America’s Cup in New Zealand also saw a significant increase in the number of superyachts visiting our shores.
'We saw an important international opportunity in this sector and the decision to develop new product lines for the superyacht sector set the company on a new course with a strong export focus,' says Rutter.
Over the following decade, specialising in customised uniforms for superyacht crews has clearly paid off for Rutter. Deals like the MY Serene uniform contract are the result of considerable hard work. Along the way, Rutter linked up with Line 7’s new owners Charles Parsons which sees Events Clothing hold the exclusive rights to Line 7 marine and yachting apparel sales in all markets outside New Zealand and Australia.
The company now operates from its own building in St Lukes, Auckland where a showroom of its extensive range of garments means that the team receive regular visits from numerous superyacht captains and owners as they visit New Zealand.
Rutter says while the company continued to grow during this time, its sales took a hit during the 2009 global economic crisis.
'Twenty-five per cent of our revenue was wiped out with international sales dipping harder, faster than the domestic market. Clients only replaced basic uniform needs, they didn’t paint their boats, they didn’t sail to any new destinations.
'Now, in contrast, the international business has bounced back faster than New Zealand seems to have. In the 2011 financial year, we’ll be back up to where we were, in terms of gross revenue and even a bit ahead of budget.'
Having supplied uniforms to 280 superyachts and counting, Rutter says the company’s current top 20 customers comprise 18 superyachts and two corporates.
'Of the superyachts currently plying world’s oceans, 80 per cent are motor yachts and 20 per cent are sailing yachts. If you look back to 2000 when we decided to focus on the international superyacht market, most our business was with sailing yachts – that’s the business we knew and that’s the business New Zealand boat builders like Alloy Yachts, YD and Fitzroy Yachts have been most well-known for.
'However an important consideration is that the motor yachts typically have much larger crews than sailing yachts and they also have a more extensive uniform. It’s a both a challenge and a natural progression that our client mix will continue to emphasise more motor yachts.'
One of Rutter’s strategic goals for the future growth of Events Clothing was to establish at least one physical site in Europe in which to display the company’s extensive clothing range.
'We wanted a closer connection with Europe by 2011, so it was very pleasing to form a partnership with Evolution Yacht Agents at the end of last year. This agency has offices in Barcelona and Palma and now a showroom stocked with our own Events uniform range and examples of our customised crew uniform options. In the UK we have made a connection with Southampton-based Rule 26, which has a very strong corporate and marine customer base. It’s very pleasing to see how well these new links are going already.'
Rutter says that, having been in operation for exactly 20 years on 18 March 2011, the company is now in a position to double its sales turnover within the next five years.
'That’s a pretty strong position to be in as we mark our 20th year and it’s thanks to the hard work of our fantastic team,' says Rutter. 'Of our 17 staff members, many have been with us for more than ten years and quite a few have been here more than 15 years.
'There have been many, many highlights over this time and it has been and continues to be a real pleasure to have the opportunity to work in such an interesting and dynamic industry and with many great people. I have been fortunate to mix and work with many influential people in this business. Many people have contributed to Events Clothing’s success and I thank them for being as passionate about this business as I am.
'If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this business, it’s stick to your knitting. It’s very easy to be distracted by other opportunities, so we’ll keep doing what we do best – top quality, customised uniforms and technical clothing for the superyacht, marine and business sectors.'
The 20-year anniversary was celebrated on 18 March with a special function for the Events Clothing team, clients, suppliers, friends and family at the company’s St Lukes premises.