We catch up with fashion buyer, designer and mother of two Sophea and her right-hand woman, Emily. This divine duo are the babes behind multi-brand, destination fashion boutique, (and Saben stockist) Coco Wellington.
Coco Wellington boasts the most beautifully curated collection of New Zealand design with a few international favourites peppered between. An exquisite edit of swoon-worthy basics through to covetable occasion-wear.
Sophea and Emily also make up half of the team of locally produced in-house fashion brand ESSK. And if that wasn't business enough, Sophea also owns a NZ Wine boutique in Cambodia. Throw in some travel and raising her daughters, we admire the way she juggles it all with such an effortless panache!
Photographed by Rachel Burt, it is such a treat to feature to Sophea and Emily in our SHOP LOCAL series. We talk about friendship in business, why their customers are at the heart of what they do, and the effects of lockdown. PLUS, in the name of supporting local, they share their favourite places to eat, shop and play; so take note and enjoy their fantasticness.
Tell us about the early days for Coco, the dream and how this become a reality.
Coco has been a dream for me since day one! Being able to make the dream a reality has been a big achievement for me. I have loved watching the business grow over the years and have been lucky enough to meet amazing people along the way.
Having the support from my family, friends, staff and of course our customers have meant that Coco has been able to go from strength to strength.
Coco wouldn't be here today without them!
Who is the coco-women you have in mind when doing the buying?
The best way to describe a Coco customer is a woman who has love for fashion.
We have all types of women walking through the coco doors and we do our best to offer a selection of clothing that suits their body shape, personality and lifestyle.
Quality and functionality plays a huge part in the selection process for our customers. We want to embrace women and have them leaving feeling empowered and ready to tackle life wherever they may be going!
How is Covid19 affecting your family, business and way of life?
We’re both social butterflies, who love to be out and about, and around lots of people particularly with our friends and family. Every weekend, we would normally have some form of food gathering; lunch and/or dinner. It provides an opportunity for our (Sophea) girls to meet with their grandparents and cousins, and eat delicious food!
Our love for fashion and helping others to find that perfect outfit and accessories in store, is what ‘sparks joy’ and helps motivates us. We really miss not being able to see our clients try on different outfits.
How are you personally coping / evolving? And what about your business?
Having this time has sparked a new sense of creativity, it has forced us to be more creative and think of new ways we can engage with our customers. It has also reminded us of how proud we are to be Kiwis! In between working on the business there has been a lot of cooking with my kids and drinking a lot of mummy special juice which has been a lot of fun but let’s just say… the lock-down tum is happening!
When it comes to business, any major pivot points or words of wisdom that have really stuck through the noise?
Trying to stay positive and focus on the good out of a bad situation, we are all experiencing similar things so if we can all stick together and support one another there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. I have been reminded by this experience the importance of family and quality over quantity. I believe in this when it comes to fashion but have also been reminded that this translates into the time I spend with my family.
You have cultivated a strong community of coco women. What inspires you when it comes to your customers / what do they mean to you?
Our customers mean the world to us, their ongoing support for 15 years truly inspires us to keep doing what we are doing, without them Coco Wellington would not be the same. We both live a breathe fashion so it is important for us to share that passion with our customers.
When our customers come to Coco we love to spend time with them, listen to what they want and what will make them feel comfortable, confident and beautiful. This also helps us when we are looking at future collections as we always have them in our minds.
Sophea – tells us about working with Em, and the values you admire in her
Working with Ems never seems like work. Its like catching up with a good friend and always having something to say while having a fabulous day. I admire her hard working attitude nothing is too big or to small for her. Her outlook on life is beautiful just like her. Her attention to detail and her ability to be a calm perfectionist to something I value. She is young in age but has an old soul that translates to her skill to deal with a wide range of people and situations. I just adore her, she has a heart of gold.
Emily – whats it like working Sophea and the values you admire in her
I have been working alongside Sophea for 5 years now, not only do I admire her as a business woman and business partner but also a best friend.
Her encouragement towards life goals and fighting for what you love and believe in is really what I admire most about her also her loving and caring nature, she is always putting other people before herself.
I have never met someone more inspiring than her.
What’s keeping you sane?
Technology - the ability to keep in touch with family and friends through video chats and social media is fantastic! How they coped during the last pandemic amazes me! Also, the ability to research, study and following the latest fashion trends online for inspiration has been great. We’re so lucky with where we’re at in our technology.
Food - we both really love food, so cooking and trying new recipes has helped us during the lock-down.
Fresh air – going outside for walks and scooter rides with the kids for some fresh air has also been really helpful.
What are you most looking forward to after lock-down?
Getting back to normality and looking at venturing out into some bigger plans for Coco Wellington - stay tuned.
Getting back to normality. We really miss seeing our wider group of family and friends, and working in-store.
AND for our readers coming to Wellington, tell us the best paces to eat stay and play.
We are such foodies we have too many to share!
@cafe_neo - our neighbours
Ohtel – a sweet personalised boutique hotel on Oriental Parade. An elevated home away from home that focuses on design and service.
Saben Style: what is your MUST-HAVE fail safe style, and what is next on your wishlist
We love the Tilly family! These beauties will just work for anyone and any occasion!
Such a staple style that will continue to stay there for years!
Next on the wish list is to keep growing our luggage collection, we are in love with the luggage! We both travel A LOT we can honestly say that the luggage range has made our travelling life a lot easier - who wouldn't want to travel in style?
Outfits: Sophea and Emily are both wearing Zimmermann, check out Coco Wellington's Zimmermann range here.
Saben Style: Shop Saben handbags here.
Photography: Rachel Burt Photography