The brand has grown considerably since they opened their first pop-up site in Ponsonby, with 2020 bringing the announcement of two new retail locations to their existing bricks and mortar portfolio. Commercial Bay, Auckland CBD’s newest and most luxurious shopping and entertainment district, is due to open in March followed closely with a location in the revamped Newmarket Precinct.
Elle explains their journey started when Yolande travelled to Nepal and purchased cashmere pieces as gifts for friends and family. “She realised then, that there was nowhere to purchase those special pieces throughout all seasons.”
Yolande says: “People love it because it’s soft and it breathes. It’s also up to eight times warmer than wool. Our customers love to travel with it because it’s light.”
“Then there’s the luxury element,” adds Elle. “You know when you put it on, cashmere is something special.”
Establishing that there was a gap in the local market, Elle and Yolande combined their backgrounds in fashion and retail to provide not only an accessible cashmere product but also an elevated retail experience for the product itself.
“It’s a product that inspires and needs a lot of conversation,” Elle says. “People are keen to know the story of how it is made and how to look after it. To this day, we like to spend time on the shop floor, talking to our customers and engaging them with the product.
“Because it is so tactile people want to touch and feel it. We set up the shops in both Auckland and Queenstown with a strong focus on experience. We place emphasis on creating bespoke shop fit-outs that align with the product”.
Now that it’s available, cashmere lovers just can’t get enough. Both women and men have tuned in to the timeless sophistication of cashmere. Elle + Riley’s collections are a mix of classic and contemporary pieces designed for a wide spectrum of ages.
“Because we are a mother and daughter team,” says Yolande, “we design to suit all age groups. The younger market is often influenced by the mother’s love of cashmere with sustainability ingrained in the process throughout. Current generations are becoming more conscious of buying a more sustainable product, something to keep forever rather than throw away.
“While most of our customers are women, we also design for men with a range of sweaters, beanies and scarves ― and that’s starting to grow in demand. There are a lot of men who travel extensively. They know about the heritage of cashmere, and they want to experience it for themselves.”
Elle and Yolande design the pieces themselves whilst most of the garments are made offshore as more than 90 per cent of raw cashmere comes from Mongolia where it is extremely hot in summer and cold in winter. The goat’s hair is combed from the fine soft underbelly of the animal, a time-consuming process. Two goats are needed to get enough fibre for a sweater, hence it is more valuable than merino.
They have also introduced a special New Zealand-made product that is a gorgeous combination of cashmere, possum and silk.
Colours are deliberately neutral. “Although we have done a lot of colour in the past and still provide feature colours each season, most of our customers still opt for the soft neutral tones – the camels, greys and pastels. Because you want to keep pieces forever, you don’t want to tire looking at them,” explains Elle.
The next few months will see the pair roll out their new Autumn-Winter collection. Whether you visit an Elle + Riley Cashmere store or check online elleandriley.com you will discover luxurious ribbed and cabled pieces, animal prints, plus the latest brushed cashmere which is incredibly soft.
Once you experience it, you will keep coming back for more.
Words: Vicki Holder