Premium made-to-measure clothing designer and New Zealand SMB champion Adrienne Winkelmann is transforming her operation with Jessica Grubiša at the helm, thanks to Microsoft Surface and Teams. In broaching a new sub brand, and a digital transformation, they knew they needed a new perspective on the critical aspects that had helped shape their identity over the last 40 years.
Since 1978, fashion doyenne Adrienne Winkelmann has been empowering women to look their best through fearless bespoke designerwear. And while the brand’s never been stronger – they’ve maintained a high-end couture business in Chancery and a significant workroom, fabric collection, and pattern archive in nearby Oconnell Street since 2000– their potential to create an effortless, accelerated design and execution process was hampered by the old-fashioned technology of pen and paper.
In 2020, Adrienne Winkelmann welcomed Jessica Grubiša as Creative Director. With growth in mind, the team saw the potential to transform the Adrienne Winkelmann brand by bringing their operations into the 21st century – thanks to the power of Microsoft Surface and Teams.
Welcoming Grubiša to Winkelmann
When Adrienne Winkelmann launched her label and boutique store in Mayfair Mall on Auckland’s Queen Street, she quickly became an editorial favourite. Her bold, modern and tailored classics regularly appeared in high-end magazines and on the shoulders of New Zealand’s A-listers. And although Adrienne and the team have kept ahead of fashion trends, their methods remained the same tried-and-trusted that they’d used for the last 40 years.
As Jessica explains, “When I came on board, we were dealing almost entirely with non-digital processes. The made-to-measure process that has defined Adrienne Winkelmann as New Zealand’s top specialists in tailored, custom design since 1978 has a significant paper trail. Adrienne still has dossiers for every one of her clients – with every measurement and note. There’s a significant amount of information needed in made-to-measure tailoring – and that comes with its own challenges.”
“It was very much an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ system!”
“We were waiting for emails to be answered or notes to be seen. We were assigning tasks manually. When you’re working with clients in the made-to-measure process, you have to be on every little detail – you don’t want certain things to be left behind or missed.”
The organisation was strong, but Jessica saw the potential for transformation by introducing the Adrienne Winkelmann brand to the digital realm and coinciding with the launch of a new ecommerce label.
Introducing: AW, the new collection by Adrienne Winkelmann
As Jessica explains, “We dress a lot of powerful, busy women. And our business lifestyles are changing; what constitutes ‘corporate dress’ is moving at an incredible pace. We wanted to develop a label that was easy wearing, work-to-weekend designs for strong women – without compromising on the Adrienne Winkelmann brand.”
In diversifying, Jessica saw the future in ecommerce. This would prove to be the starting point for their digital transformation.
The team started drawing upon Adrienne’s considerable archive of materials and designs to identify the elements crucial to the history of the brand and how she continues to shape fashion. “We wanted to offer a modern perspective that respected the strengths of the past.”
“With our new sub-brand, we wouldn’t compromise on make or tailoring; it was about being ready to offer an entirely new, modern perspective on the identity that’s shaped us.”
What they developed was simply called AW, a collection of easy work-to-weekend essentials that focussed on form, fit and function. Anticipating a massive launch event, Jessica looked to introducing devices so that clients could engage with the designs and e-store at the party.
“We were of course using some of the Microsoft suite for some of the day-to-day, but once we started exploring Microsoft Surface and Teams, the opportunities started opening up for us. We knew it could level us up.”
Understanding the challenge
Jessica consulted with Riki Plester at Microsoft New Zealand to see what opportunities were available to transform Adrienne Winkelmann into a digital-led brand. At the heart of the process is the intensive design and made-to-measure approach.
“It’s not like off-the-shelf,” Jessica explains. “Often a client will come in and want one of this season’s designs tailored to them; others will dream a design, and we’ll make it happen. They’ll have an appointment with myself, Adrienne, or Sam Malloy, and we’ll take measurements and perhaps include a calico fitting to get the specifications correct. After a couple of sessions, they’ve got their garments – and a lifelong service for any further adjustments.”
“But it was almost all on paper. There are countless notes to keep track of.”
In addition, Adrienne Winkelmann maintains the business at The Chancery and the workshop at Oconnell Street – a short distance apart in geographic terms, but when it comes to paper notes, they might as well be in different countries. And to complicate things further, New Zealand’s COVID lockdowns in 2020 hampered communications between staff – something the implementation of new technology had to avoid.
The digital revolution had to offer an experience better than paper for the design and tailoring process; it had to allow the team to communicate effortlessly – both between facilities, and from home if need be; and ideally streamline the design-to-ecommerce process so that the new AW experience would continue to deliver on the exceptional standard that Adrienne Winkelmann had set.
Implementing Microsoft Teams and Surface
Adrienne Winkelmann teamed up with Microsoft to implement Surface and Teams across the organisation and transform how the designer brand delivers exceptional wear to discerning clients.
“Because the AW range is exclusively online, we wanted the right device to showcase that so our clients can shop it. From there, it was pretty organic in the way we started working together – we loved the product and we wanted to start using it.”
Jessica was set up with a Surface that she could take on the road while maintaining a connection to the office. A desktop Surface Pro X would communicate to the workroom, where a smaller model would relay information to the team. Meanwhile, they were utilising Teams for mapping out the day.
Integral to that experience was ensuring that Adrienne Winkelmann herself as a designer would be able to work more efficiently with Microsoft than the paper methods she was used to. Fortunately Riki was able to help coach Adrienne and support her through learning to use the Surface tablet with the best sketch capabilities.
“When Microsoft came along, they spent the time with me,” says Adrienne. “They taught me how to use all the features I needed. And the huge thing for me is sketching – I mean, it’s so much easier for me at the moment with the Surface because I can sketch; I can change sketches – and on the Microsoft Surface system, it’s incredible.”
Weaving some magic with Microsoft
Communication is key to understanding a client’s made-to-measure ideals, as well as liaising with the entire design team and ensuring that the vision will come to life.
“For us, Microsoft Teams has really sped up our processes,” says Jessica. “Now we have a consistent chat. It also helps back up all your planned tasks in a day. So for us, we can assign tasks, we can constantly communicate who’s across that. Nothing gets missed.”
Even though the two facilities – the workshop on Oconnell Street and the business in the Chancery – are separated by a short walk, the physical distance is now immaterial thanks to the power of Microsoft Teams.
“It was about communicating and always being there. So when you’re not actually physically present with each other, you are with the Surface and Teams,” explains Jessica.
The organisation has seen how vital going digital has been since COVID. “With the introduction of Microsoft Teams,” says Jessica, “we’re much better equipped, and have enhanced the client experience. Even with clients overseas, or coping with lockdowns, we’re still able to talk to each other. Nothing gets left behind.”
“Working with Microsoft has improved, all the processes here at Adrienne Winkelmann,” says Jessica. “Before, we had Excel and Word, but we weren’t taking full advantage of what was available to us. “The Surface Studio and the drawing capabilities have been amazing for us. As designers, you’re consistently drawing or sketching, and it facilitates all that wonderfully.”
“Microsoft Teams and Surface really have revolutionised the business.”
A transformative process
The Microsoft experience is now threaded through every part of the business, from design to communications.
“When you’re offering a premium service, you’ve got to be ahead of the game with service and experience. We can work faster, more efficiently, and without the stress of following paper. I can take photos, I can make notes; I can send them to my garment designers and have everything ready really quickly. Before, it was a slow race – and with online upload you need to be fast. I need to have all my online content, all my products, really quickly. An upload that would normally take three weeks now takes me five days.”
“Adrienne is a phenomenal designer who knows her clients and knows her aesthetic to a T. Each season, she redefines that. And the calibre of the team here is exceptional; there’s nothing like them in New Zealand. Now, we’re able to better build on that vision and take Adrienne Winkelmann to the next level.”
Jessica and Adrienne Winkelmann are Microsoft converts. “It’s been a lot of fun working with Microsoft – there’s been a great energy for the project, and they’ve really understood what our brand is about. You expect a new technology implementation to be hard work, but they’ve made it so easy! I’m a trained Mac user, but I don’t want to touch it anymore – even my laptop at home is left alone.”
For Adrienne Winkelmann, glamour has always been about effortlessness – with Microsoft on their side, they’re able to cast a spell easier than ever before.