The hall story

Here's a fabulous piece about our very own Lorraine on the Martinborough Village website's Inspirational Women Blog Series



Like blood coursing through the veins, fabric, design and a passion for both is deeply woven into Lorraine Halls story. From an early age she developed a love for the rag trade, with her Mother a dressmaker and parents who owned Masterton store Halls fabrics - "it runs in the blood, we're a creative family!" she tells me. Lorraine grew up totally immersed in fashion and took to design with obvious flair, starting to sew her own garments from age 11 - " out of frustration, I could never find patterns I liked", so she started combining existing patterns, then created her own pieces using off-cuts of fabric from her parents shop. Taking charge of her individual style, innovative from this early age, the future was always going to be bright.

Lorraine started working Friday nights in the shop, quickly developing a following of loyal customers who sought her out for fabric and style advice - she had a feel for what looked right and they sensed it. Building a trust relationship with clients from a young age Lorraine learnt the importance of being genuine in business. "I know what looks good and would never sell anything that doesn't suit a client - it just doesn't work". This ethic is woven into the Hall mantra today - "I'm not influenced by fickle fashion trends" Lorraine tells me, "I need to love a concept, if it doesn't feel right , I won't work with it".


On leaving school, Lorraine continued working with her parents at Hall's Fabrics, picking up on their solid work ethic and business practises until their retirement. She was then "head hunted" as a machine demonstrator and haberdashery/product buyer for a sewing machine franchise in her early 20's. "Looking back it was a huge responsibility at a young age" she reflects. This path was already setting the standard for Hall's future, as we chat I quickly sense this talented woman carries an admirable sense of responsibility with high standards and integrity as a basis for everything she does. The foundation being laid for the future, Lorraine worked as a tutor for both REAP and Wairarapa College for 10 years while raising her two boys. Ever versatile she taught classes in clothing, craft & window treatments over 3 nights per week.

In 2006 with an unexpected change in personal circumstances and needing to be financially self-sufficient for both her sons and herself there came a change of direction. "I remember thinking what am I going to do now? Then my survival instincts kicked in as I fell back on what i knew, loved and was good at. With little money I drove over to Levin, filled my car up with fabrics….this was the catalyst in establishing the label, Hall was launched"


Who remembers the famous Hall Tees? We loved them! vintage lace, metallic stitched crosses, mussel shell and mother of pearl embellishments....but most of all the fit, comfort and style. Lorraine launched Hall selling these tees at markets and the Martinborough fair, it was a busy but enjoyable time. She becomes vibrant as she remembers - this lady has clear passion for her trade and it shows when she describes how it all came together. "The embellishments were a huge hit, the pearls, the crosses the fit" - again designed out of frustration for lack of good fitting styles, Lorraine identified a gap in the market and filled it. "Women loved them, I remember individually sewing metallic threads back and forward on the tees to create motifs, stitching on pearls and making emblems", she smiles. Hall tees soon become available in high end boutique stores when Lorraine started wholesaling, signifying the end of markets in 2010.

Hall was growing fast and starting a business on the cusp of the recession Lorraine learnt to think on her feet. "We would manufacture for the season ahead then distribute to each shop - my sitting room was like a mini factory, I'd come home after taking night classes and sew for the label until the wee hours of the morning!" She soon realised it was time to move out of home and create more space for the growing label, so in 2011 Hall was moved into a large workroom in Carterton - "It was time to get it out of the house!"

Business was booming, but it wasn't all smooth sailing, being the recession she was stung by a few cancelled orders. The label was doing well but others weren't, she knew it wasn't sustainable to carry that sort of risk. Ever resilient and innovative, Lorraine decided it was time to change tack, focusing more on direct retail sales and marketing, with increasing demand she took on her first assistant.


The Carterton years were focused on strengthening the Hall brand with suitable marketing, the launch of the first Hall website and expanding the wholesaling side within New Zealand. It was a smart move to focus on the retail side of the business. "In order for Hall to grow successfully & survive during a recession, we also needed to start retailing, this helped immensely with the designing side of the label." Lorraine tells me, "To be able to meet our customers, see how our garments fitted, listen to what was missing in the market was such valuable information."

Lorraine has learnt the key to survival in business is essentially to be around positive creative people. "I've learnt to listen to my instinctive feelings and having the confidence to stick with that" A golden rule? "Always employ people who are passionate, professional, trustworthy and truly believe in your brand, lastly remember business is always evolving, move forward, go with the flow and enjoy the ride on the way."


When the Carterton lease came up for renewal the forward thinking Lorraine decided to move Hall to a new location. "Greytown was a better option being more of a retail focused town." There were no suitable shops for lease at that time, so she sold her Masterton home and purchased 132 Main Street in January 2013, the start of another Hall era, Lorraine describes this location as a "destination shop". This has proven to be a smart move with Hall going from strength to strength. Lorraine stopped wholesaling last summer to focus purely on the Greytown flagship store and her growing web based customers. "We have a strong following of women from city to rural in both New Zealand and Australia."

Hall is a stylish, likeable and strong fact whats not to like about Hall? - a stand out individual women's label, Lorraine follows her instincts, confidently carving out her style direction and it works so well. Of Scandinavian descent, she has an affinity for uncomplicated clean lines, "our fabric is of the highest quality, with only natural fibres used, I won't go near polyester". Styles are versatile, worn from season to season - Hall is slow fashion, well crafted, designed in Greytown and made in New Zealand. "We have a huge loyal following, one of our key points of difference is catering for sizes 10-24, plus our focus on quality, well constructed garments - you get what you pay for". Lorraine won't compromise, her standards are set and customers endorse this with their return business,


So where does the future lie? A continuing focus on delivering more of the same while maintaining the standards set for the label - the bar is high for Hall and the focus always on quality. There are challenges, Lorraine explains "It's becoming more and more difficult to compete with global prices, good quality fabrics and threads are harder to get in New Zealand, this is why so many labels have gone off shore. On the up side, there are renovations happening in the Main Street shop, Lorraine is excited about this and while building is happening there's a pop up shop at 106 Main Street with some fantastic sale items. There are other amazing brands available at Hall - Elk, FDJ jeans, Silk Body, Chocolat, Obi, Karen Murrell's beautiful lipsticks, Mooi handbags & Blunt umbrellas to name a few.

Another era evolving in the story of Hall - yes there are challenges and the rag trade can be volatile, but Lorraine has proven she can take on difficult times and go forward with innovation, the future is in excellent hands. In 9 years she has gone from "What am I going to do?" to a well recognised and sought after proudly New Zealand made brand and a major player in the local economy. There's nothing more to prove, this lady has made her mark and we love what Hall is delivering. Make sure you call in when you're next in Greytown or check out Hall's website, if you're not already a fan, you'll become one....we promise.
Images by Simon Murcott
Trish Higginson & Karina Hailwood - Creative Directors Martinborough Village
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