Huffer: Conquering NZFW, China and beyond

Since hitting the stores in 1997 as an underground snowboard label, Huffer has grown exponentially, in particular over the past three years when the sky has been, quite simply, the limit.

It’s where you’ll find Huffer co-founder Steve Dunstan when he’s not on the road preaching the gospel of Huffer to the (mostly) converted; the latest trip being a very special one to Sydney. Extending its reach far beyond just clothing and great parties, the brand teamed up with acclaimed, New Zealand-born but New York-based photographer Tom Gould for the DECADE exhibition. To celebrate 10 years of living in New York, Gould captured 10 locals from the Bronx neighbourhood, including rapper Action Bronson and producer The Alchemist (along with a bunch of other characters), all wearing Huffer in their own style. “We had some great people turn up to celebrate with us and they seemed really engaged with the work,” says Steve, “and having photos that were focused on personalities rather than a campaign was a really great initiative for sure.”

This year celebrates 21 years in the business for Huffer, and when we speak Steve is in the countdown to its New Zealand Fashion Week show, which has been designed to both celebrate and educate guests, followed by a party at iconic Mount Eden music venue, The Powerstation. “We really loved the idea of having a show and party at The Powerstation,” explains Steve, “because it’s a venue that is really close to our culture. A lot of Huffer people would have had amazing, emotional experiences and good times watching artists on stage at The Powerstation over the years, so it just made perfect sense as a place to show our collection and celebrate. There’s a bit of sticky carpet but hey, it’s all good!”

The venue has hosted some pretty legendary acts over the past 21 years, and Huffer was on track to welcome yet another one onto the stage when Steve and I speak. “I can’t say who it is until the contract is signed,” he says with a laugh, “but they are pretty huge internationally and we are seriously excited about having them perform at our show.” Influential Australian musician, producer and photographer Ta-ku is scoring the show and has also worked on a collaborative digital piece with the brand that has been curated especially for the event.

But what is particularly special about this year’s Huffer show is that it officially kicks off a unique partnership with the Mental Health Foundation. A key part of the show’s messaging is shining a light on mental health and suicide prevention in particular, which is a subject so real for many Kiwis. “We’ve always been involved with charities over the years,” says Steve, “but we’ve never had an alignment with any one in particular. Suicide prevention is hugely important to me, and I think that the market we’re in means that we should have a voice of some sort and try to work together to bring about change.” To mark the special collaboration, a limited range of beanies and t-shirts will feature in the show and will be available to buy immediately after, with proceeds going to the foundation. “It’s just the start of a journey that we’re going to take with the Mental Health Foundation, supporting them all the way,” says Steve.

On a commercial level, the show will also be special in that the event will be live streamed in New Zealand and Australia. “The looks we are putting together will be really succinct and totally Huffer,” says the brand’s co-founder, “like great technical clothing and streetwear that we’re proud of. We don’t want to put any crazy spin on it but just do us, really well. We always take a more targeted approach when we enter new markets and this show will definitely be focused on that. I can’t wait.”

By the time you read this I am sure the locally based, globally minded company will have succeeded in both wowing the people and raising awareness for a seriously worthy cause with their latest NZFW outing. I think it’s pretty safe to say there was also one hell of a party - happy birthday Huffer, 21 and ready for anything. (HELENE RAVLICH)