Annah Stretton (nee Annabel Carver) (Attended 1973 to 1976)
Annah Stretton is a New Zealand fashion designer, entrepreneur, writer, blogger, women’s advocate, and philanthropist.
In Annah’s words moving into the fashion industry was simply about taking opportunities as they arose. Annah accepted a dare from her father in 1981 around the left and right brain and as a result ended up embarking on an accountancy degree. She wanted to show her father how easy it was to move from the left to right, but not right to left. It was her accountancy journey, however, that delivered up an opportunity in a fashion company resulting in her passion, a bucket load of self-belief and absolute love of business.
At Karamu she had studied arts-based subjects, loving art and all the creative subjects, maths, and French being her nemesis. However, she left school in the 6th form (with success in UE) to help her Mum and her new partner run a hotel in Pahiatua. After a few months of this work, she needed the motivation and inspiration of school and went back to school in the Wairarapa to complete her 7th form year and secured an A bursary. She then went on to complete two years studying Art at the Dunedin Polytechnic, before returning to Hawke’s Bay to live in Havelock North which lead to the dare from her Dad.
In April 1992 she set up her fashion business on a farm in Morrinsville and in the first year turned over 1 million dollars. Her customers were the large chain stores in New Zealand, Farmers, K-Mart, and Ezibuy, and these operators were extremely hard taskmasters and taught Annah to be very capable of business. She simply went from strength to strength; and even though she had all the accountancy training her growth strategy was adaptive and organic.
Annah has continued her designing passion and became a regular blogger, an in-demand public speaker, an author of seven books, a leading public figure in New Zealand and an active animal rights advocate. In 2008, she was awarded the honour of becoming a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to Fashion, Business and the Community. Further acumen came in 2009 when she was acknowledged with the New Zealand Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year Award.
She built her fashion label and range so much that by 2013 she was creating two fashion collections per year, had 20 stores open across New Zealand (including Annah S in Havelock North). Growing up in the fashion space she was always mindful of paying it forward, being conscious of being more than just a healthy bottom line, aligning with many community organisation’s throughout the 28 years of the fashion journey, a want to pay it forward to the women who brought her fashion. In 2013 she set up her own charitable foundation (Stretton Foundation) and more recently RAW (Reclaim Another Woman), born out of a chance meeting with the CEO of the Waikato Women’s Refuge, who had approached her to help her sort through some of their financial challenges. RAW is work in the women’s prisons in New Zealand with a high preference for improving outcomes (with a 360 wrap around support) for Maori recidivist female offenders (www.raw.org.nz)
Annah shares that she lives by the mantra:
If you don’t love what you do and how you live, get out (change it) and find something you do love.
Life is too short not to be in a happy space continually and even more so, if you don’t love what you do you can never be great at it, good maybe, but never great. Passion is a key driver of life and business success. Each and every day I still
love ALL the elements of my life, the work in vulnerable communities through the Stretton foundation, the days in my fashion role and I am now back at the Waikato University studying for a Masters degree looking at the legalisation of methamphetamine in this country. This will assist me to add the academia to the practical work I have been doing in the prisons for the last five years.
Annah’s governance has also been broad, previously being a trustee of both the Waikato Breast Cancer Trust and the True Colours Charitable Trust, a board member of Fashion Industry New Zealand, on the advisory boards of Massey
University and Global Woman, a director of Te Atawhai wellness retreat in Te Aroha, a best practice environment, focusing on nutrition movement and mind. She has also been on UNICEF NZ and Chair of the Waikato Womens’ Refuge
Annah has truly given strength to our vision of Proudly Karamu, Proudly Hastings, Proudly Learning – being open to helping and supporting others, while stretching her own capabilities.
“Decisive, direct, inclusive … inspiring those around her to be challenged, confident and independent. Congratulations,
Annah, on the recognition of your contribution to so many aspects of New Zealand life.” Helen Clark, Prime Minister
of New Zealand from 1999-2008
Original article by Karamu High School Newsletter - Issue 4 July 2020