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The brand debuted at NZ Fashion Week in August last year. It was inspired by clothing worn by Sir Edmund on his 1953 expedition to Mt Everest, when he and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to reach the summit of the world's tallest mountain.
Hillary Clothing is a social enterprise which donates half of all sales to various charities and philanthropic causes. It opened a store at Queenstown Airport at the beginning of this month and plans to open five more this year.
Edmund Hillary clothing is sold through wholesale in other retail stores throughout New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Co-founder and chief executive Mike Hall-Taylor said Queenstown was an obvious location for its physical debut. The brand has global ambitions for expansion, including opening standalone stores in some of the world’s most affluent ski areas.
“Our initial launch markets are the UK and New Zealand, a bit like the original 1950 expedition - it was a New Zealand-UK thing, it was a British expedition with a Kiwi that climbed to the top,” Hall-Taylor said.
“Having our own stores is quite a key strategy for us,” he said. “Thinking globally, I’d like to have five stores this year and I’d like to have at least 10 by the end of next year.”
Sir Edmund's son Peter Hillary and Hall-Taylor began seriously developing the high-end luxury brand together about three years ago.
“We give a pretty large percentage of our sales back to philanthropic causes as Ed would have done,” he said.'
“We created our own trust, which a percentage of sales goes into, and we decide how to allocate it. It goes to causes in Nepal but also causes in New Zealand and the UK, helping under-privileged kids in particular who wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to go on certain adventures.”
Millions of dollars to date had been invested into the brand, Hall-Taylor said.
“We’re naturally suited to Alpine resorts that are high-end. Queenstown is one but if you think of Aspen in Colorado, Val d’Isère in France, Verbier in Switzerland, we’ll naturally find homes in these places with our own stores.”
Airports are also a focus for the brand, he said. Edmund Hillary clothing from next week will be sold in the Merino Collection store in Auckland Airport’s international departures terminal.
Hall-Taylor said the brand was looking at ways to spread the production of its clothing to Nepal to help the communities there.
At present they are made in New Zealand, Ecuador, Latvia, Italy and Britain. Its merino beanies and T-shirts are made in Auckland and Dunedin.
Edmund Hillary clothing employs seven full-time staff.