When reflecting about why we do what we do, one reason is to encourage and educate about the alternative ways we can consume, like purchasing New Zealand made and secondhand. But the other reason is summed up by the Māori proverb, “He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata” (What is the most important thing in the world? The people, the people, the people.)
Karangahape Road is a community we are proud to be apart of. With a rich history of being home to many different types of people over the years, we love that it is a place for all. We love the creativity. It has the most concentrated amount of art galleries in Auckland. It is the vintage clothing district. It is one of the last pockets of Auckland creativity bringing together diverse groups of people in the name of art and culture.
The Crushes customer brings so much light and life in to our space. We strategically hire people who cultivate that energy and invest in relationships. We invest in the growth and friendship of our staff with outtings and appreciating and exploring their input making a healthy workplace our priority. We sell New Zealand made goods because they represent real people from within our community. We dream about the people and lives who loved the secondhand garments before us. It is people who are behind everything that we do.
Also, we have made an event space above the store, for workshops and gatherings. To be creative, but also to make time for one another. Because after all, that is the most important thing.
New Zealand Made
Crushes sells over 60 New Zealand businesses. It is our joy to participate and facilitate in their growth as well as to promote the importance of shopping locally.
When you purchase locally made goods, your hard earned money touches more locally-owned businesses than the one you originally purchased from as local businesses purchase from one another. An artist needs supplies, a designer needs manufacturing, a craftsman needs power, etc. This strengthens our economy by ensuring that there is enough opportunity for paid projects, and labour to keep these local businesses operational. Especially because these businesses are tax payers. When you purchase from a New Zealand company, you are helping strengthen the middle class as local businesses are employers, creating new jobs.
When you purchase locally made goods, you aren’t costing the earth as much as getting things shipped and imported. It takes much less resources moving goods domestically.
When you purchase locally made goods, you supporting the little guys. You’re giving the opportunity to grow their business and to compete with large, international conglomerates. And when you purchase locally made goods, you are retaining the unique character of your local community which is defined by the business that reside there. That plays a big factor in your overall satisfaction with where you live.
Out of the worlds 7.4 billion people, there are 40 million workers in the garment industry. It won’t shock you to know that being most of them are being exploited and are considered to be in forced labour which is modern day slavery. These garment workers are typically the most vulnerable in their communities, woman, children, migrants. They get paid far less than what is fair, in working conditions which are unsafe, without unions or governments to protect their rights. Desperate for work, they continue so that we get the finished item for less.
These facts paint a dire picture, one that once revealed for what it is, makes it very hard to participate in being a consumer in the same capacity. Not just because of the labour standards, but the environmental. Especially the amount of goods being created. Big companies literally cannot sell all of their stock. Some brands have been caught burning goods, others cutting it up. Some get donated, but the amount of textile waste is becoming so problematic that countries that once resold our imported secondhand clothing like Rwanda and Haiti have stopped incoming goods because they are at capacity and it is destroying their once thriving garment industry. This confronts the amount that we consume, and poses the question, ‘do we need this much stuff?’.
The beginning of a business is a special time where enthusiasm overlaps with creativity and the result of which is a unique idea. It is our joy to present independent and new voices, whether they are starting out on their journey, doing it as a side hustle, or doing it as a ‘labour of love’’.
It is brave to start a creative business in this climate. Small businesses are competing with big businesses who are producing not only the largest quantities the world has ever seen, but also at a pace that seems to only quicken, and with RRPs rapidly dropping which creates tough competition. They are in a crowded market that is hard to be heard in. To start a new business with these factors shows confidence that we want to get behind and support.
Small businesses have to have a unique voice to continue in strength. Everyone benefits from this when it is done well. The customer gets to take home something thoughtful and interesting, the maker gets to experience their creativity in full, and our shop gets the benefit of that palpable and contagious creativity.
Crushes loves to get behind new businesses and occasionally gets the opportunity to participate in forming decisions by guiding and educating them for a retail environment with the goal that they start and continue to be a sustainable and financially healthy business. And sometimes even getting to tailor products specifically for our Karangahape customers.
When you purchase from a small business, you are securing creatives in your community to continue pursuing their heroic art, your helping strengthen the local economy, and you are putting a smile on the business owners face.
Made By Hand
There was a time when handmade goods were not a novelty. It was something that was learnt and passed down from generation to generation. We often get mature customers that reminisce about their experiences at George Courts, the building directly across the road from Crushes, and its fabric and haberdashery section. That was a time where all women had to sew, regardless of class, simply because only the well-off could afford first hand goods. Imagine that.
We are in an age where we don’t know where our goods have come from, nor who or what made them. Surrounded by mass manufacturing, excess of goods, and lower production standards, we are growing up surrounded by ‘things’ but have no idea what good fabric and materials look and feel like.
The rareness of handmade goods is what is attracting so many of us back to the art form. As well as that we are craving the intentionality behind what we consume. It explains why hearing a makers story can make you love an item even more. And it explains the immense satisfaction we get when we finish a project, or mend something broken, or gift something handmade instead of store bought.
That same satisfaction exists for me when I hold something in my hand, that was made by hands. That was dreamed up by brains. And crafted from convictions. I feel the weight of the goods which symbolise the quality of the materials. I actually prefer the look of handmade goods, but knowing the history of it makes me enjoy the goods even more.
Makers in New Zealand have to be especially strategic, as they have to stand out against massive companies with unlimited capital to navigate and make their unique voice known to be heard in a crowded market.
Crushes loves to stock natural, raw, organic and/or vegan goods. They just look better. In this time of mass manufacturing that is full of synthetic alternatives, we are desiring a return to the simplicities of life. The beauty of nature and craftsmanship.
Cheap ceramics and glassware are so diluted with fillers that they are lightweight and smash when bumped. Candle wax is made up of harmful fillers. Skincare is tested on animals because it laden with too many potentially harmful chemicals. Textile technology mimics real materials with a synthetic alternative because it is cheaper. It is so prevalent, we have a generation of people unsure what quality fabrics look and feel like anymore. There was a time where natural materials were all we had, and it improved the products functionality and usability in our lives, as opposed to hindered or endangered it.
With the current anti-plastic awakening we seem to be experiencing, the after life of a product or garment has never been such a public topic to explore. When we ‘take out’ the trash, where is ‘out’? What happens to our goods that break? Whos responsibility is it?
Natural textiles will eventually disintegrate into nothingness. Synthetic materials break down, but only into tiny pieces, and they never fully goes away. ‘But whole damn malls made up of synthetic materials’ I hear you say, and mate, you’re not wrong. The amount that we are consuming is huge and fast. And dangerously wasteful at the end of its life.
We don’t just sell goods to sell goods. Crushes deliberately chooses every item because we want to promote the maker, its stories, and its value.
We sell two kinds of sustainable products. The first of which are products that can replace the items in your life that have unnecessary packaging that are polluting the earth. Packaging is a significant contributor to waste. New Zealanders consume 735’000 tonnes of packaging every year and recycle only about 58% of it. And you thought plastic bags were the problem. Over the years, items like Honeywrap and menstrual cups have become increasingly popular in our store, making it obvious that as an extended community, we are choosing reusable products over the convenient ones.
Our generation definitely forgets that plastic plates, and cling wrap are all new-ish concepts. The other type of sustainable products that we sell are goods that have been thoughtfully and intentionally designed to reduce and/or eliminate the waste and pollution that is created while manufacturing. Waste is a big issue with manufacturing and production, especially with size and pace of global mass manufacturing. Our leather bags are vege tanned, which is an eco-friendly alternative to the otherwise pollutant tanning industry. Our other leather bags are vegan leather which is a material finally being celebrated as it opts out of cruel animal skinning practices. We have woodworkers choosing to use off-cut recycled timbers, reducing timber mills., Etc. These businesses are making goods good again, and we are all about it.
Made known by brands like TOMS, socially conscious companies give back with every purchase. The popularity of a brand like Toms was revolutionary as it showed that consumers do care about what they purchase, and want to invest in companies that align with their values.
Crushes chooses to support companies that are socially conscious as we know that our customers are compassionate and egalitarian as they purposefully purchase from companies that support social and environmental issues. It means that they get to participate in change. And walk away with something nice, too.
The Auckland company Frank Stationery, use the buy-one-give-one model. When one buys their stationery they give an item to a student from various South Auckland schools. Being able to provide stationery is a way to not only support a child in need but equips schools to provide the best education possible. 295’000 New Zealand children live in poverty. Frank has given over 45’000 pieces of stationery in their time, with 2’000+ of that from Crushes sales. Our co-owner Sarah Firmston started a socially conscious business where she donates all of the profits of her side business Douse & Co to supports various charities close to her heart.
Then there is The Loyal Workshop. A young New Zealand family moved to Calcutta and started a business that hires women from the sex industry (that is exploitative and considered forced slavery), and re-train them to make beautiful leather bags and wallets. The women who makes the bags have their name printed in them, which gives her recognition and dignity, as well as a new start at life.