iD Dunedin Fashion Week chairwoman Susie Staley at the
Dunedin Railway Station. Photo by Chris Sullivan/Seen in
iD Dunedin Fashion Week might be over for another year -
the catwalk dismantled, the goodie bags emptied - but Susie
Staley is already looking ahead to next year.
The Dunedin lawyer with a passion for fashion has been the
driving force behind the event for the past 13 years, helping
to grow it from a small, one-off event to an international
week of fashion events.
It has not been easy. There are no year-round full-time
employees, and funding is a constant challenge.
But determination, hard work and hundreds of voluntary hours
have seen it become a landmark event for the city.
Ms Staley (51) laughingly spoke of how the small organising
committee was once described as ''a bossy group of women who
get things done''. ''I think we're determined, rather than
bossy,'' she said.
She was quick to point out that it was a team effort and it
involved a ''little tight team'' in which everyone had their
But when she was tired, reflecting on the close of yet
another event, she would look down the catwalk on the Dunedin
Railway Station platform, with fairy lights twinkling
overhead, and think: ''this is quite good, isn't it?''
Ms Staley was thrilled with the success of this year's event,
which attracted plenty of buy-in.
''We knew building up to it, it was looking huge. Tickets
sold really well, there was a lot of vibe around. We heard
lots of people were coming from out of town.
''I think people were ready for a good time in Dunedin; it
just felt like that. People were interested in something
positive ... the weather helped. It showed off Dunedin in a
good light,'' she said.
Acknowledging that it was a massive time commitment,
involving hard work and sleepless nights, she never stopped
thinking about iD - which was necessary, given there was such
a short time-frame.
The event showed off Dunedin's history but it also showed off
the future of the city, in which Ms Staley has spent most of
Born in Auckland, she lived in England from about about the
age of 5 and moved to Dunedin in her early teens.
After leaving Logan Park High School, she did not go straight
to university, but instead got got a job as a clerk in a law
Becoming a lawyer was not something that she had always had
her heart set on.
''I certainly didn't have a burning desire to be a Rumpole of
the Bailey or an Ally McBeal,'' she joked, but she always
vaguely thought that law looked interesting.
She enjoyed her time at the law firm and, with an interest in
politics, she headed to the University of Otago for a
double-degree in law and arts.
But then she thought she better concentrate on ''something
that might earn a living'' and graduated a bachelor of laws
While she did not actively set out to be a business lawyer,
it soon became apparent that she had ''some sort of natural
bent'' for the business side of law.
She later became a partner at Ross Dowling Marquet Griffin
and then established Staley Cardoza Lawyers, with Rachel
Cardoza, in 1998, the first female legal partnership in
Looking back, it was quite a big step, establishing a firm
during a ''tough time'' in the city. But what started with
two had now grown to 12.
The partnership had grown as she had juggled her legal work
with family commitments - she has a 23-year-old son
Christopher - and also various board appointments.
But it was all about interesting work and that was why she
liked being on boards. It added another interest level to her
life and provided intellectual stimulation.
''What I quite like and have liked about the boards is that
strategic thinking and nothing stays the same,'' she said.
Ms Staley's first - and also her biggest - appointment was
being elected to the board of Tower in 1996.
''That was an experience you can't buy. It stood me in good
stead for going forward,'' she said.
Just 33 at the time, she was one of two women on the board
and the youngest by a long way.
She was chairwoman of Maritime New Zealand from December 2002
until she retired in January 2010, a tenure of which she was
During that period, the entity took on additional roles, such
as responsibility for the Rescue Co-ordination Centre for New
Zealand, which followed the Time Out boating tragedy
off the coast of North Otago, and there was also a
restructure and reorganisation of the organisation.
She was head of the New Zealand delegation to the
International Maritime Organisation in London, a United
Ms Staley enjoyed her involvement in the rural sector -
''it's the lifeblood of New Zealand'' - which included being
on the board of Reid Farmers, which later merged with Pyne
Gould Guinness, which subsequently merged with Wrightson to
become PGG Wrightson, and an agricultural biotechnology
She has also been on various other boards, including being a
director of Dunedin International Airport.
As well as chairing the iD committee, she is also chairwoman
of Chatsford Management Ltd, a private company that runs the
Chatsford retirement complex at Mosgiel, and a member of the
University of Otago School of Business advisory board.
She was available for and always interested in other board
opportunities, she said.
Asked what attributes were required to be a good director, Ms
Staley said you had to want to do it and also understand what
you were getting yourself in for.
You needed to be collegial but firm and it also required
''learning your stuff''.
''It's understanding what you're there for and then
understanding the business but not running the business.
A prominent director once told her that one of the major
assets of a good director was being able to think.
There were times when it was tough and you had to be unafraid
of speaking up, but in a constructive and fair way.
''When the going gets tough, you do need to be able to work
through that stuff,'' she said.
''Not everyone on the board needs to know everything about
the business but you should make it your business ... to
spend some time in the business and then understand what your
role is,'' she said.
She believed the particular skills on a board were now looked
at a lot more, which was a good thing.
She would never go on a board unless she felt there was
someone on it that had specific financial training.
When it came to women on boards, Ms Staley believed it had
perhaps been harder for women to get their first appointment.
''I still think women are judged on a different standard. I'm
possibly not in the camp that says there's no such thing as a
glass ceiling,'' she said.
Asked about her vision for Dunedin, Ms Staley said her first
vision was more jobs.
When she was president of the Otago Chamber of Commerce from
1997 to 1999, she had a vision that if a percentage of
graduates from the city's tertiary institutes could be held
in Dunedin and gain a meaningful job, ''imagine what this
town would look like''.
While acknowledging that she did not have all the answers, Ms
Staley said the city did need to be more vibrant and:
''people can't do anything unless they've got a job''.
It needed to play to its strengths - and those strengths
clearly were education'' - and leverage off them in a clever
way, while also recognising its limitations.
''We need to sell what we actually have. We need to be
pushing the great things about it.
''You can have a successful positive life here but people
should earn money. We shouldn't be afraid to say we should
earn a decent living,'' she said.
A finalist in the inaugural Women of Influence Awards last
year, Ms Staley shrugged off any suggestion of a
''I'm no superwoman. I think I'm quite organised. I think I
probably have quite a short attention span. I always need
something else, I like to be busy. It's nice to be busy'' she