Wittner goes for gold: In conversation with CEO Catherine Williamson

Congratulations on leading Wittner through to their 110th anniversary. Tell me about the process that went behind the launch of the limited edition collection. How would you describe the product development process? 

Thank you so much, it’s a wonderful milestone and one that the whole business from the ground up can celebrate. We really wanted to extend that celebration to the customer and involve them in this monumental occasion as we wouldn’t be where we are today without them. Our customer is at the heart of everything we do. Given this is our 110th year anniversary we thought we’d bring something extra special to our loyal customers that celebrates both our history as a brand and our connection to Melbourne. With a nod to our city’s golden past, these styles have been carefully curated to inspire future looks with key styles from our past combined with two new styles to look ahead. This collection really is a gift to those who covet iconic styles of past, present and future.

The Anniversary collection tells a story of Wittner’s decorated history yet also looks to our bright future. Comprising four designs in glossy golden leather, the collection includes golden iterations of two beloved Wittner styles alongside two newly introduced designs, which are sure to inspire an equally dedicated following. 

Wittner’s love affair with Melbourne continues to grow and this collection is really our way of honouring that. It is really a love letter to our home city. 

Reaching 110 years is an amazing feat in Australian retail. What would you say are some of Wittner’s strengths that has helped it continue to remain relevant to consumers today? 

We pride ourselves on our ability to listen to the consumer and let the Australian woman guide us. When you take a look back on our history as one of the first mail order fashion businesses and as one of the first to truly embrace the ecommerce platform, you see our true track record of innovation. At the end of the day, the one thing that keeps a business going for this long is truly our loyal customers. Without them, we wouldn’t be here today. Remaining at the forefront of the Australian fashion landscape is also something we focus on. 

Two main pillars of our business philosophy are innovation and adaptability, both elements are so important to moving forward and aligning with your customers wants and needs. It’s something we do very well and will continue to do so as we look towards the future.

What do you think it takes for a retail business to not only survive, but also thrive, these days like Wittner has? 

As mentioned above, key elements to thriving in the retail landscape are flexibility, agility and adaptability.  We really adapt to the modern consumer, just as trends progress, we look at what we do, how we can do it better and take the time to listen to what the consumer wants. 

Wittner has survived through 110 years of retail evolution and innovation has been our driver since we’re founded and continues to drive us into the future. Evolution exists in how we communicate with our customers, personalisation – especially for the individuality of style, elevated retail experiences – across all channels and a deeper connection to our community. A brand can no longer just be about a product – it needs to be an incredible, premium product, but it also needs to connect with them and their individual style. 

I know that when we last spoke, you were very passionate about driving diversity and sustainability within the business. What would you say are some of the most interesting initiatives that Wittner has run in the past year or so? 

We’re very passionate about sustainability and diversity, it’s one aspect of our business that we are constantly looking to improve and see where we can do better in everything we do. In each collection we evaluate where we can implement sustainable practices and materials, how we can ensure recycled materials are utilised without compromising quality or style. Another initiative that we’re incredibly passionate about is our RMIT Industry Partnership, I’ve recently been honoured to join the Industry Advisory Committee. It’s something that I’m more than happy to lend my time to as it’s truly important to myself and Wittner that we’re giving back to the next generation.

There’s not a lot of diversity in footwear and I know Wittner has recently launched a multi-fit shoe range. Please tell me about the collection and the thinking behind it. 

Our multi-fit shoe range is important year round, especially in winter where many boots are knee-high and don’t offer much inclusivity when it comes to diverse shapes and sizes. Seeing how we can ensure universal fit in each season is also a focus for us. It’s definitely something we think about when designing each collection as we want every Australian woman to love, wear and feel comfortable in their Wittner shoes. We’ve recently extended our sizing to size 43, a size that is seldom found in Australian fashion show retailers. 

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