WOMEN WHO INSPIRE: Danielle Vagner – Co-owner & Creative Director of Kookai.
I am so thrilled to welcome the very inspiring, Danielle Vagner, to the SISJ blog today. I had the pleasure of attending last night’s Kookai AW14 runway show at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne. It was a beautiful evening with the who’s-who of Australian fashion in attendance – including Margaret Zhang, supermodels Nicole Trunfio & Sarah Stephens.
Tell us a little about yourself – has fashion always been in your blood?
My love of fashion I have always said is in my gene pool. I come from a long line of women in my family that have been in the creative world from singers, actors, models and stylists. So there is no surprise I didn’t end up as a private detective or a journalist as I always thought myself to be one day.
With legs the last for days, bone structure to die for and a smile that lights up the room (!!!) – tell us, what is your ethnic and cultural background:
My heritage is an interesting mix. My family is a combination of Hungarian, Check, English and Australian. I was brought up with strong family ties to my European background. I was educated in Melbourne in a private school and then studied psychology writing and literature before embarking on a modelling career that took me all over the world. On one of these trips to Tokyo I met at 20 a French girl called Paola who was also modelling we became friends and to this day she is my best friend and lives in Paris. It was because of this friendship and my travels to Paris that led me into the world of Kookai and being a retailer and opening stores in Australia and New Zealand years afterwards. I currently have stores in every major city within Australia which is amazing. NZ Kookai is a vertical business and in our 21 years of business we have become manufacturers and designers exclusively from our parent company which still exists in Paris and stores throughout the world.
A mother, a business woman, a fashion empire – what does it all mean to you and how do you lead a balanced life?
I am first a mother before I consider myself a business woman. I have a daughter, Bianca, who is 21 and my son, Viktor, who is 19. They are my rock and are both very involved in the business. I guess that was inevitable, as they grew up as young children learning about fashion and design. They travelled with us on trips overseas for work and I even used to merchandise our first stores with them balanced on my hip! The things we do when we are young and idealistic!
My personal interests are absolutely my children and travelling with them. We all love discovering new and exciting places to visit and have many opportunities to style for Kookai as a family. Apart from styling, I love to ski and have been doing it since I was six years old. I love sports that are fast and furious and at times I have been called an adrenalin junkie! I grew up with an older brother who rode dirt bikes, so this would explain a lot!
Tell us what an average Monday is like for you in the Kookai office:
My average Monday involves most importantly, coffee! My schedule for the week is always the same which is great for planning. On a Monday I know I always work on the shop floor in our Chapel St store and the office and then store visits the rest of the week.
Mondays are all about merchandising as well as styling Kookai guests for all our stores. We get one delivery a week and love getting in and unpacking and organising the stock myself. One in-store I will look at the key looks and style the front window displays. This then gets sent out to all 34 stores as well as accessories. I often get so excited by the new product I will share it with my customers and Kookaiettes on Instagram! I also love uploading and sharing key looks and pics showcasing all the new product we have just received in store and what I have just merchandised. Our Kookai customers love a little inside goss on what’s hot and has just arrived in store. We know we deliver product once a week and they just love seeing it on social media.
Where do you find your creative/styling inspiration?
My creative / styling inspiration comes from my visual aspect of looking at everything with eyes that see how it can project to the essence of our Kookai woman. She is always in my head. I am also inspired by travel, especially Paris (aka my home away from home). It is irresistible and enthralling and a constant source of discovering. I love the magic of Paris, the architecture and the women who dress with effortless style is so irresistible – it’s hard not to become caught up in its romantic aesthetics!
If you were a colour, what would you be and why?
It would have to be the colour red – the colour of passion and love of course! However, I do still associate with Kookai’s colour of blue. It is the perfect colour for women to identify and that they felt good about. Blue is the colour of the sky and the sea so I love this colour too. I love that we are so widely recognized too with our statement turquoise blue bags.