We catch up with Claire Ongly, owner of online store Izzy & Jean Co. to find out how her carefully curated store came to be, and why she’s now online-only
Claire, how did Izzy & Jean Co. come about? I had always wanted to run my own business, and when I moved back to New Zealand in 2013 I decided it was now or never! I was always interested in design, but had never worked in that area. I combined my personal interest in beautiful, well-crafted things with my experience building and managing websites to create Izzy and Jean Co. In fact, my husband and I both decided to start our own businesses around the same time. He owns Woody’s Free Range Farm and I own Izzy and Jean Co. We also have a two-year old. Yes, we must be mad!
When was this? Izzy and Jean Co. started in June 2013.
When did you open the physical store? I had a pop-up shop in Otaki from Oct 2015 until March 2016. It was a great opportunity to get some face time with my customers, and also to have a shop front over the Christmas period. Otaki has a lot of traffic passing through over the summer months, so I was able to reach some new customers this way.
Where was the store? The store was on the main highway in Otaki, among all the outlet shops. Our farm is just up the line in Manakau, so that is why I chose Otaki.
Where are you yourself now based? I have now moved to a lovely office in Otaki.
How long was it open and why did you close? It was open for six months. Because I am flying solo, I decided to close the store because it was taking my time and focus away from my core business, which is the Izzy and Jean Co. online store.
Why did you decide to return to online only? I want to focus on growing my online business. There are many online stores popping up these days, and I want to stand out from the crowd and establish the Izzy and Jean Co. brand. I am also working on a wholesale range to be launched later this year.
What kinds of products do you stock? I have tried to curate a range of products that are beautiful, well-crafted and a little bit different. I love to stumble across independent designers, traditional craftspeople or long-running businesses that have been proudly crafting a product for many years. It’s great to support these types of creators.
How and where do you source them? I don’t go to the gift fairs and I try to find things that are a bit unique, and stand out because of their design and quality. Basically I spend a lot of time on the internet searching for new suppliers. I source products from all over the world, from Tunisia to Nepal.
What are your most popular pieces? My Turkish peshtemal towels are extremely popular. They are such a versatile item, and are available in a wide variety of styles and colours. Choose from a classic black or grey towel for the bathroom, or a bright and bold towel with neon tassels for the beach. Stripes, brights, classic, neutral, there is a Turkish towel for everyone.
What’s next for Izzy & Jean Co.?
I am excited about the direction for 2016. I am working with a wonderful partner in Turkey to produce a range of Turkish towels and blankets which will be available via the Izzy and Jean Co. online store, as well as wholesale. Keep your eye out for them later this year!