Tale of success

KOOKAÏ is a name synonymous to fashion and is a well-known brand across runways around the world from the likes of Milan, Paris and New York.

It is one of Australia’s most iconic and leading fashion labels.

The success of this brand has been largely attributed to the entrepreneurial expertise of Rob Cromb.

Mr Cromb is one of the nine speakers at this year’s FIA congress jointly sponsored by Vodafone and Westpac that will be held on May 18 to 19, 2018 at the Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa.

“Over the years, we have heard many inspirational success stories shared during Congress. This year we are very excited to be able to hear from someone of such caliber and stature such as Rob Cromb,” FIA president Finau Nagera said.

“I am certain that delegates will be able to relate to what he has to share seeing as his journey started right here in Fiji and Fiji is still a part of his personal and professional life.”

Ms Nagera said Mr Cromb was a Melbourne-based entrepreneur who spent much of his childhood in Bua, Vanua Levu before moving to Melbourne, Australia.

Mr Cromb started with a single retail shop in Chapel St, Melbourne and now owns almost 40 retail boutiques across Australia, New Zealand and Europe.

His journey began more than 25 years ago when he and his then wife and business partner Danielle Vagner (a leading model in the 80s) took a trip to Paris and by chance met one of the founders of KOOKAÏ Paris Philippe de Hesdin.

KOOKAÏ was already an established brand in Europe and Mr Cromb was inspired to do the same in the Australian market.

It was in 1992 when the Parisian label was introduced into the lives and wardrobes of Australian women.

KOOKAÏ was one of the first Australian fashion retailers to adopt a vertically integrated model, designing and sourcing its own product to supplement orders from Paris and enable it to deliver fresh stock into stores every week.

The majority of the KOOKAÏ collection is produced out of its own manufacturing facilities in Fiji and Sri Lanka.

The rapid growth of KOOKAÏ’s operations in Australia and New Zealand presented an opportunity in mid 2017 for Rob and Danielle to pursue their long-held dream of purchasing the worldwide KOOKAÏ brand.

Almost overnight the business expanded to include a second head office in Paris, more than 200 retail outlets throughout Europe and distributors across most corners of the globe.

Mr Cromb’s vision moving forward was to lead the KOOKAÏ teams in both hemispheres towards creating one unified brand that stays true to its origins while continuing to push fashion’s boundaries.

“Rob Cromb also started KOOKAÏ’s charity called Katalyst Foundation where assistance is provided for building roads, schools, and medical care to specific communities in Fiji,” FIA congress organising committee chairperson Rajeshwar Singh said.

“FIA believes that this is a professional journey that our delegates need to hear.

“It’s a story about how a young boy from Bua has not only conquered the fashion industry but made an entrepreneurial mark across the world.”

The Katalyst Foundation is an endeavour closest to Mr Cromb’s heart where he has started a network of businesses in Fiji: each aimed at providing training and employment.

The ultimate aim of these social businesses is to generate funds to support the foundation itself.

During a recent interview with Australian Financial Review, Mr Cromb attributed the success of KOOKAÏ to the staff and plenty elbow grease.

“But to be honest it’s been a lot of hard work and blood sweat and tears,” Mr Cromb stated in the interview.

He said coming from a modest background and to see how far he had come was still a surprise.

With more than 25 years in the fashion industry, Mr Cromb has learnt to be “patient with success and not to expand too quickly”.

As the strategic head of KOOKAÏ, Mr Cromb drives the direction of the brand and on any one day could be doing anything from hand sketching a new design to making decisions on boutique locations and financial statements.

He shares his time between running the KOOKAÏ business in Australia, KOOKAÏ’s manufacturing facilities in Fiji and his ever-expanding philanthropic endeavours.

Registration forms for the FIA 2018 congress are available on www.fia.org.fj.

Registration closes on Friday April 13. Log on to our website for more information.

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