Kōrero with Daniel Tupara, Owner of AOTEARAW Denim Co

October 26, 2023
We caught up with Daniel Tupara, owner of AOTEARAW Denim Co for a kōrero about ARDC, a self-funded, tangata whenua owned denim house producing only the highest quality goods - no compromise.
Kia ora Dan. Thank you for taking the time to kōrero with us! First off, what motivated you to start Aotearaw Denim Co?

Growing up with whānau in the apparel industry as a child I’d spend my holidays and after school, working sweeping floors, packing boxes, cleaning the kitchen and toilets, surrounded by kākahu, often being paid in product. I took an early interest in streetwear and decided early on this was what I was passionate about. I wanted my own clothing label, not to work for others.

What experience did you have when you first started out (both business and practical)?

I continued my learning post college and studied and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion & Design. At the same time as studying I started up my own streetwear store to help fund my studies - Platinum Urban Apparel located in Whanganui, as well working as a wholesale supplier to other retailers.

If you don’t mind sharing, how did you raise the putea to get started in your pakihi? Did you start small & build? Get investment etc?

I self-funded ARDC by working numerous jobs and saving hard, no short cuts, no grants or funding, mostly so I wasn’t reliant on others nor carried any debt. It was tough, but it was also fulfilling knowing I did the mahi.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a Pakihi Māori, that is just starting out.

Have a plan, be disciplined to growing your bottom line, don’t be swayed by money coming in and get ahead of yourself. Pay your bills and invest your profit back into your business.

Build solid relationships based on trust, and stick to your word - your integrity in business is everything. 

What is one challenge that you have overcome, in your business? Can you tell us about it?

When first launching we really wanted to make sure the brand was a success. As a result we made allowances and over extended payment terms to our retailers in good faith. This worked against us in some cases, however it helped us to rethink our strategy and refocused us.

Celebrating the day-to-day wins is important, what do you do to celebrate your wins?

Give thanks to Ihoa, practice gratitude for all we have been able to build and achieve, and we give back. We always help others where we can, this is part of who we are as a whānau and business.

If you had to choose one, what would be the ‘must have’ item in your current collection?

It has to be our anchor piece which is our Bobby Selvedge Denim Jeans - this is a staple and versatile investment piece that you should have in your wardrobe. The quality is exceptional and the fit is classic. Our hope is this piece becomes an icon in the Aotearoa denim heritage story.

What sets ARDC apart from other kākahu brands? 

There are many other amazing kākahu brands out there. We pride ourselves as being able to sit beside international brands and hold our own, when you see ARDC on shelves it sits comfortably among its equals.

Where can our Whāriki whānau find ARDC? 

Online at www.ardc.co.nz and in selected stores nationally via our exclusive retail partner Superette.

Do you have anything else to add or advice to share?

Chase your dreams - the harder you work and invest in yourself the more they become reality. Learn from the challenges you will face and do your time.

Success doesn’t come overnight, but instead with consistency and hard work.
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