Tell me a little bit about yourself and what Chaos & Harmony is all about.
I am Beks Anderson and I started Chaos and Harmony just as the GFC started in 2008, just in time for the recession. I had this ambitious idea for a shoe brand and really saw an opportunity for boutique shoes in the NZ and Australian market. I had spent a year studying in Italy and had come back a little burnt out and tired, just from the Italian way of life and studying really hard, but I was ready to go and got the brand going and we’ve been working at it since then.
Where does the name Chaos & Harmony come from?
I wanted a brand name that attributed to an aspect of the design. We use a lot of beautiful leathers and unique textures, so they can be slightly contradictory at times and also I guess in a subtle way, just an essence of how our lives are; there are moments where it’s full on and then moments where it’s peaceful and there are lulls, and we need the ebbs and flows of both. Mainly it was focused on a name that would inspire us design wise.
What made you decide to break away from the norm, rather than say, settle for a stable 9-5 job?
Even as a child I always saw myself running my own business or having the sense of doing something a little bit different. I never saw myself fitting into a corporate scene, in my heart I felt like I was a pioneer, or an entrepreneur. I didn’t know the exactness of “designing shoes” and that whole process, but I definitely felt like there was something I needed to do in the world that would hopefully bring significance and here I am, still on that journey.
Were you always designing shoes, or did you have a career path before that?
When I left school, I worked in retail for a really long time, and then I fell into interior design. I loved it. I really love design, form and function, I love spaces. I probably would’ve gone into either that or styling or even architecture if I hadn’t gone where I did. I’d always loved shoes, but I thought that was just a fun part of me, and my style. I started to explore the idea a bit further, and thought I could do this well. I am the kind of person that would rather fail trying than not go for it at all. And that’s how it all begun. I didn’t actually go and study shoe design until I was 26, so I was a little bit older, I had things a little bit more figured out in my head, and felt confident with who I was and where I wanted to go.
What’s your ultimate goal?
It’s constantly changing, especially when you have massive things happening in the world, I think everyone re-evaluates their lives. So, what was a goal last year is not necessarily a goal this year. I’ve always been quite driven and ambitious, and I’ve found as I’ve gotten older that I’m not as driven by the same things. We’ve spent some time refining our business and bringing things in a bit.
About 3 years ago we launched a bridal collection which was really exciting, and I feel really passionate about that because I am excited about healthy relationships, so I feel like there’s some more opportunities there, so that is really inspiring me at the moment.
We make shoes, but we don’t just make shoes. A lot of what we do is really uplifting people. It always amazes me how much self-doubt women carry and so whether we’re talking to people on email or Instagram or our girls in the store, there’s so much of what we do that is about empowering women. That has become a big part of what we do. We did actually start with that, but it’s become more of the undercurrent and core value of what we do as opposed to just sales + profit. Obviously, those things are important, but they’re not the drivers. So, it’s just finding the balance in that. In terms of finding a goal, I would love to see our bridal collection established well, internationally, and that’s something we’re working on in the next 5 years. We would love to see both our collections (mainline is the other), but the bridal collection is the one that is solving a lot of problems for people at the moment.
And you’re in both NZ and Australia at the moment?
Yes, we do have our bridal shoes in Australia as well, just a small amount, and we do sell a lot online, but looking at more of an established distribution over there, that’s our next phase.
What have been some of the most memorable moments or biggest successes?
It’s funny, people always go to awards and things like that. I think once upon a time those were motivating, but I just love seeing people happy. This is just a snapshot of what happens regularly, but the other day our store was really busy. I’m not usually in there, but it was so busy that I was called in and I helped a lady she was looking for bridal shoes for her daughter. She’d done all the research and we managed to refine it down and find some shoes for her. Just the relief, especially at the moment because people are really stressed, and the calmness and joy we were able to bring to solving a piece of the puzzle, I get a lot of satisfaction out of that. I am happy with that. It’s just a beautiful thing to bring peace.
We’ve also just started connecting with Robyn and the team from Dress for Success, and hearing about their journey and their struggles at the moment and being able to really help with that. We’re still working all of the details out, but I feel like we can bring some relief, and I feel really satisfied by that.
And also, I’m incredibly proud of my team and the journey that we’re on. We’re moving in a great direction and there’s a lot of joy and happiness and we really care about each other. You spend more time with these people more than some of your family members. To see health and growth, it really is the simplicity of joy, love, peace and happiness. And shoes do help with that!
Do you have any regrets along the way?
I do slightly. I am a working Mum, my son is 8 and my daughter is 5. I really struggled trying to work and be a Mum. It’s hard and I feel for working Mums. I think that’s where I had to adjust a lot of my expectations because I was wanting to achieve a lot, but it just wasn’t possible. I probably really struggled through that season, so I possibly regret not having the ability to give myself a break sooner in that process, that journey, and just not worry about if I’m not getting anywhere and just relaxing and enjoying it all.
I have now, but I think there was a real resistance and struggle that was within me. I don’t regret it, but I just wish I’d figured it out a bit sooner because I really struggled.
What was the defining moment in turning those challenges around?
Well, I actually got clinically depressed, so I had to change. There was a number of scenarios happening around us, with our business, health of family members. My Mum had breast cancer and Greg’s Mum had Breast Cancer. All of those things, they’d just become too much and my parents had just recently divorced, so there was a lot happening. My psychologist said, you’ve been more through in 10 months than what a people do in a lifetime, so I just knew I needed to change where I sit in all of this because it’s not good for me and I’m carrying the weight of all of this. So that was the defining moment. Just getting healthy and getting strong mentally and emotionally.
And you do feel like you’ve achieved that healthy balance now?
Yeah, I do. I’m not intimidated by those thoughts, or processes, and how it all plays out. I trust that there’s a greater tomorrow and that I am well.
It is difficult finding time for yourself when you are working for yourself, when there is that blurred line.
Yes, it comes down to a lot of adjustments of your expectations on how things should look or work. The guilt you feel around stopping and starting, or the guilt you don’t feel, the procrastination, just all this head stuff. Whereas, if you get out of your head and trust yourself and look at what needs to be done it’s a lot simpler. Everything gets done at the end of the day, the world will still wake up and go on tomorrow (of course there may be some consequences). Just standing back for a moment and looking at how everything connects and just taking a breath!
Do you have any advice for anyone ready to do the same?
Yes, I think if you have a solution, or you can bring joy or peace to the world in some way, you have to do that, you have to at least follow that idea through. I would also always say get really great advice, get really good mentors who can be objective with you. Most entrepreneurs I meet often appear to have a better way, they can seem rose-tinted in their thinking, so be really careful that you’re not being bias in your mindset and stack it the way you want it.
Make sure you have people that you allow to speak into your ideas and thinking, and that you hear them, because they do know, and they have learnt a lot.
I would say yes pursue it, but get good advice. I think at the beginning of any new project or job, there’s always a season where you have to go all in. You are working hard, and that’s okay, for a season, but it doesn’t have to become a lifestyle. Just be really aware of different seasons and listening to your body and those around you to make sure that you’re in the right place at the right time.
What are some of your favourite NZ brands at the moment?
I actually really like Isle of Eden (and I’m not just saying this!). My husband and I both have a pair and I love them! I would have more (and hopefully will!). I am great friends with Teresa from Blak Clothing, I really like what she’s doing. I love my friends from Lower, they have great vision. I love the team from Marle… these are all great locals and I really value what they are about. I love what Juliette Hogan does, she really creates beautiful pieces and she’s a really beautiful person. I could keep going on! The team from Saben, they’ve really gone on a journey to diversify how they present as a brand, and they’ve done an amazing job at that.
What are you favourite places in NZ to travel?
I love Flaxmill Bay in the Coromandel, it’s just around from Cooks Beach and that area is just gorgeous. I was there a couple of weeks ago which was divine. The other place I went just over a month ago was around Havelock North and the wineries. We went with friends, it’s just so beautiful. New Zealand is a beautiful country.