Fashion provided work-life balance

Frendz owner Diana Chin is shutting up shop after 32 years, to spend more time with family overseas. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Frendz owner Diana Chin is shutting up shop after 32 years, to spend more time with family overseas. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Diana Chin's three children were a driver for her opening a fashion boutique in 1979, but now her children and their children are pulling her from the lower Stuart St store, 32 years later.

The Frendz owner retired yesterday in order to spend time with her children and newborn grandchildren in Vancouver and London.

As a young mother in her twenties, Mrs Chin opened the store because it was a way she could work and look after three children at the same time.

She said her youngest especially ''grew up'' in the store's back room while she worked out front.

''With my third I basically went straight from the hospital to the shop. I didn't want to stay at home and the only way I could still look after my children was to be self-employed,'' she said.

Mrs Chin had always been interested in fashion and found Frendz provided the perfect work-life balance.

''If the store was quiet, I would just put the baby in the pram and walk around the Octagon.''

In three decades of working six days a week, she had never taken a sick day.

''It's been a good business, being my own boss and looking forward to the new fashion coming out.''

Early on, Mrs Chin did not have to contend with clothing chain stores and found success catering to Dunedin's former climate. Half her shop was filled with swimwear, at a time when Dunedin summers were far longer and warmer, she said. Ball gowns were popular, but made way for more casual comfortable modern attire.

She had witnessed the revival of three decades of style and said fashion always repeated.

''It goes in cycles,'' she observed.

In 1988, she leased the shop next door to expand her business and ended up buying both.

Last October, she decided to retire and leased half the shop to a separate business. Mrs Chin said the other half would also be leased in due course.

Her regular customers had remained loyal, often bringing in children, relatives and friends.

Contact with people was what she would miss most.

Born and bred in Dunedin, Mrs Chin said it was a ''small place'' and word-of-mouth ensured her remaining stock was sold without the need for advertising.

Aside from travel, retirement would allow her more time on the golf course, she said.

''I didn't think I would have the shop this long. Time just goes by so quickly.''

- rosie.manins@odt.co.nz

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