Hey Penny, tell me a little bit about yourself and what Penny Foggo Design is all about?
Sure! So, I have an accessories brand and make jewellery basically. It's about making things that are fun, using lots of colour and shape and about keeping my price point pretty reasonable so that it makes a good gift or people can buy couple of products a year etc.
Tell me a little bit about yourself, who's Penny?
Well, I've been doing this for the last 16 years and it was completely unintentional. I have done a whole range of things. Randomly, I have a Master's in Geography, feminist geography. I haven't used that since, but I have always been interested in design and art but never really fell into the category of being a true artist when I was at school because I couldn't draw people. So, at the time you kind of think, "Ok, if you can't do that and you can't draw a bowl of fruit, then you're not very good at art" so I never pursued that creative route as a school leaver, which I totally regretted.
And still regret it?
Well, no because I've done lots of other stuff since and you come to the realisation that being able to draw a bowl of fruit doesn't define what creativity is, I've got lots of outlets for that. Anyway, so I went to uni, did that and then I actually ended up working as a media planner in an advertising agency! Again, completely unrelated to geography. Then, I went on, moved to London and moved into marketing and was a marketing manager for a couple of big TV channels in the UK.
That's so cool! Did you have experience in marketing before that?
Just as a media planner actually and then I went to London. I worked for MTV first, so sort of started TV at MTV and then worked at the BBC for one of their arms, yeah! Big budgets, amazing jobs, totally fun, got to travel all over the world, go to festivals and do lots of sponsorship, which was so cool. I guess that was my creative outlet at the time because there was a lot of creativity involved in that job. But at the end of the day that was quite a stressful job and I just really wanted to do something else while I was over there. Then I applied for London College of Fashion and got into their shoemaking and accessories course, so I did that…
A woman of many talents!
Haha yeah, so I did that over there and then we decided to move back to NZ with the intention of making shoes when I got back here because I totally love shoes and I used to buy shoes all the time. I owned heaps of shoes, now I just live in trainers unfortunately! I had some cool experiences over there and I got to go to London Fashion Week and work for a shoemaker and then go to Paris and Fashion Week there.
Did you ever design your own shoes?
No, no not at the time because I was still studying and I was just helping brands out, I never produced my own (apart from in class projects). The idea was to come back here and start my own shoe label. Unfortunately, about two weeks after we arrived back, the last shoe-making factory that produced shoes in New Zealand closed down. So, that was really disappointing. There are options, you can go to China, there was Fiji, but it was really difficult because you need a huge financial backing and you needed to produce 'x' number of pairs of shoes and that's really hard if you don't have that behind you. So, I did do a few random things to do with shoes. I purchased a whole lot of dead stock of old 80's court shoes and repurposed them and sold them up in Auckland in a couple of shops. I also produced a range of jandals that were made with old tea towels.
Was that just a 'one-off'?
I did that for a little while, but then I gave that away because I started making jewellery. I'd always made jewellery when I was younger, and I used to stock it way back in Wellington years ago. I started doing that and it kind of took off and I was like "Ohhh, this is kind of fun!", so that was kind of when it started. Then we moved down to Wellington and I picked up some more stockists and it just kind of snowballed. I was kind of lucky, things just fell into place.
Yeah! Sounds like everything was super random, but also very exciting!
Yeah, it was super random, and it was never the intention. Part of me still really regrets the fact that I didn't get to do the shoe thing because it would have been great, I still would have loved to, but this actually really works for me.
Yeah and it's cool that you can balance this with all of the other parts of your life as well!
Yeah well, that's why it worked, because then we went off to have kids and because I base myself at home, I could work right through that and dictate my own hours. I used to work 5-7 nights on it just because of kids, babies, all that sort of stuff during the day, then I'd just do the jewellery at night. I managed to maintain it and it was just amazing to have that flexibility.
So many cool experiences! What made you decide to break away from the norm?
I think as I said before, I had had a 9-5 job, well more than 9-5 job because those kinds of jobs were always quite all-encompassing. That can take its toll and be quite stressful and I just wanted to move away and do something for myself. That's when I decided to move away and do some more study and take a different route. I guess it was at a time where that opportunity was there, and I was lucky to have a partner that was supportive. Yeah, I was just lucky.
What was your biggest challenge?
I guess work wise it's just trying to find time to always come up with something new, trying to keep one step ahead. Because fashion changes so often, what people want changes all the time. I think that's how I've managed to go on for so long, because I do change my products all of the time and I try and bring new things in. I don't kind work to set seasons or do different launches, I just drip feed new things all of the time. I just kind of try to maintain a modern look I guess.
How do you source your new inspiration?
I guess it's just absorbing things all the time. Just when you're out, or on the internet… I mean, there's so much stuff you can look at now, it's amazing! The accessibility of it all is awesome just following different people around the world and seeing what they're up to etc.
What is inspiring you at the moment?
I’m really excited to be releasing a whole new range of products using a bio-based resin. I’ve got some bracelets and earrings and hopefully moving into some homewares. I’ve chosen a bio-based resin which is environmentally friendly. It’s plant-based and created by a company which creates sustainable epoxies which have much lower impact on the environment which is fantastic. I managed to source some great packaging from a local Wellington company and some recycled papers and such. It’s been really exciting and a very steep learning curve over the past couple of months but I’m ready to get these pieces out into the big wide world. Resin is a really interesting product; you can do all sorts of things with it and the colours that you create can be amazing and it's really exciting to be able to create a product right from scratch. It’s not just the colours that I like about Resin but the feel of it as well. It’s very tactile and they feel amazing just to touch. Also, the fact that each one is an individual, one-of-a-kind piece that’s really appealing to me, so no one else will have the same thing. It’s a super exciting time, it’s been a really busy time, but they seem to have been really well received so far and I’m really enjoying s change and a new product.
What do you think has been your biggest success?
I think kind of the fact that I'm still going after 16 years. The fact that I'm still going and I'm still making jewellery and I still love it is a huge success. I've got a really good work-life balance and I'm so lucky to maintain that.
Do you think this is something that you'll continue for years to come?
Yeah, I think so! I often think, am I ready to do something else and then I'll dabble. Like last year I thought I'd try doing ceramics and pottery and I did that quite full-on and had a go but you now, the jewellery just really works and it enables me to do all the other things that I do. I do heaps of sport, a crazy amount of sport. Loads of mountain biking, road biking and I can do that during the day and I can work at night and it’s just great.
Any regrets so far?
I always think, could I have taken a completely different route, but I guess you are shaped by what you've done in the past. All of those different jobs I've had, I've learned so much. I've learned so much about branding and marketing and I think that's helped where I am today because I've got such a clear vision of who I am targeting and what they want and what my brand values are.
It sounds like you have really enjoyed everything that you have done in the moment too!
Yeah absolutely, so not many regrets, but I think there are always opportunities that you feel that you could have taken that you haven't in the past. I guess ultimately, I'm actually really quite a shy person, so I won't put myself out there on social media all the time. I do think that that may mean I miss out on some good opportunities.
Do you have any advice for anyone ready to do the same?
I would say just be confident and go for it if you can. If you've got an opportunity just take it. Be very clear about what your brand is and what you can offer that's different from everyone else, have a really clear vision of who your target audience is.