Casual luxury comes to town

3 minutes read
Posted 25 April, 2024
Deadly Ponies CAIMAN STACK  T mini RRP649.00  B Twist RRP 829.00

Luxury accessories brand Deadly Ponies is moving south.

The Auckland-based design house opens its first South Island store in Queenstown next month, on the corner of Rees and Beach Streets, in the heart of downtown’s new pedestrianised area.

Established in 2005, Deadly Ponies produces handcrafted bags, shoes, jackets, wallets and other pieces from supple, ethically-sourced leathers and materials, with a signature New Zealand style which has attracted a global customer base.

Liam Bowden and husband Steven Boyd are behind the brand, building it up from a garageproject to an internationally recognised label, with flagship retail stores in Auckland and Wellington.

Boyd says Queenstown has been in their plans for about three years.

“It’s that opportunity to present the brand to a wider audience, with such a cycle of new customers coming through, all the international tourists, especially the Australians,” he says.

“We’ve had a really strong Australian business for a decade, and this offers a chance to engage with them.

“We also have a really good local customer base in the South Island too, so it’s a nice combination and a great location for a store.”
The 50sqm premises, the former Partridge Jewellers site, is in one of Queenstown’s premium locations, with downtown now attracting more and more luxury brands.

“Retail is the part of the business I really enjoy,” says Boyd, who is the company’s managing director.

“It’s pretty dynamic, right, and one of the challenges for us as we were growing was finding ways to present the brand.

“Even though we’ve got an amazing stockists network, loyal stockists we’ve had for 15 years, there’s nothing quite like having your own place. That’s why we focus really heavily on our interiors, making the spaces feel sort of like small homes, loungy. Very quiet, quite intimate spaces, softly lit.

“Our customer service strategy is warm and inviting. We steer away from that heavy luxury and lean into the fact that New Zealanders are far more casual shoppers. We want an environment that reflects that.”

The store will carry around 50 products, not the whole range, but there will be some bespoke creations to celebrate the opening in Queenstown. The pieces are casual luxury, day wear rather than events.

“Trends shift in and out but currently, post Covid, a lot of brands are now leaning into that aesthetic.”

They are designed in their Auckland studio and manufactured by select global partners who share the brand’s sustainability values, each signing the Deadly Ponies code of conduct.

The journey began with creative director Liam Bowden making one-off leather pieces and jewellery in his garage, taking scraps from tannery off-cuts to create his first designs.

He’s self-taught in pattern construction, sewing, and finishing, and when he was studying graphic design at university, Liam made a pair of goat fur slippers jokingly passing them off as pony fur. They were nicknamed his ‘Deadly Pony’ slippers.

“He began creating stickers with this nickname, and as he ventured into selling products at markets, he casually jotted down prices on the back of these branded stickers. Without realising it, he inadvertently gave birth to Deadly Ponies.” Boyd says.

That upcycle ethos is retained within the business and one of its core philosophies is to have as minimal impact on the environment as possible.

The high-quality leathers are tanned without harmful chemicals and the products use 100% recyclable solid brass, which means the leather can be refurbished and brass melted down to form new products. They invite customers to earn a $50 gift voucher by returning pre-loved Deadly Ponies products. The company has also moved to zero plastic and aims to be zerowaste certified by the end of FY24.

“You really have to commit to it but being small gives you a lot more flexibility to move faster, by not carrying a huge amount of stock. We can run a very low production model. Most of our products sell out season on season. And that’s a deliberate strategy because it means we can innovate quite quickly.”

Queenstown will be something of a homecoming for Boyd, whose grandfather Douglas Badcock was born in the town and was a well-known landscape painter.

“You could say it’s come full circle. He had a shop in town in the ‘60s or ‘70s, and back then hand-coloured photos for tourism board displays around Queenstown. We’ll actually have one of his original watercolours on display.”

CAPTION Deadly Ponies Steven Boyd left and Liam Bowden in Queenstown

Deadly Ponies’ Steven Boyd, left, and Liam Bowden in Queenstown



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