MONDAY Muse: In Conversation With Rukaiya Daud of Fourth Street Home
To celebrate the New Zealand launch of MONDAY Haircare; a thoughtful, ingredient-conscious brand designed to bring luxury haircare to the masses, MONDAY have partnered with The Twenties Club to bring you this series of conversations between myself and the women who have served as muses to brand-founder Jaimee Lupton in the building of her business.
Jaimee was drawn to how multi-faceted these women are – not just as fashion designers or business owners, but as daughters, sisters, risk-takers, sustainability advocates and role models.
We hope you love these conversations as much as we do, and that they inspire you to identify the muses in your own life.
Let’s go back to the beginning of your journey. Tell me about your time living in New York working for Bulgari, what was that season of your life like and what seeds were planted there for the future of your career with Fourth Street?
I had just finished at Auckland Uni (a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Innovation and International Business) and used the J1 Visa to go to New York. That year was pivotal and incredibly meaningful for me. New York is hard; it taught me resilience, grit and that if you work hard enough any idea can become a reality. A simple hole in the wall coffee shop can become a franchise within a few years. Opportunities can arise from a conversation with a stranger at a party.
I worked at the Bulgari flagship store on 5th and 57th, and feel really nostalgic about my time there. My favourite part of the role (apart from the incredible jewels – it’s like a museum) were the conversations. Retail allows you to interact the most interesting people that you might otherwise never meet – I’ve had conversations in that store that I will remember for the rest of myself. One customer I met was a woman who had been the VP of Missoni America for thirty years and recently started her own consulting company. We clicked immediately. She’d take me out on my break for lunches at Bergdorf’s and we’d talk about life. These conversations led to me leaving Bulgari and working for the consulting company, specifically as part of the team who reintroduced Cacharel to the American market. It was interesting being exposed to a different side of retail and seeing the buying process.
It’s funny now to think that I was twenty five years old, living in New York, with eighty dollars (or maybe less) in my bank account, and yet I was speaking to film directors I studied at school and having my picture taken by Bill Cunningham at a gala at The Frick. New York is full of the interesting and the interested.
How did you make the decision to launch Fourth Street and pursue it as your full-time career, as opposed to taking the safer and more traditional route of applying for a job with an existing company?
I know I would benefit from working for another company, but the trajectory of my business just hasn’t worked out that way. Starting Fourth Street was a very organic decision and essentially a way to monetize my natural interests. For me, just finding the courage to start was invaluable – once you’re in the real world as a business owner you can then continue to evolve and respond to what people want, but first you must start. The website is only one part of my business but it has been a great platform to communicate the aesthetic of the work I do as an interior consultant, as well as sourcing for clients around the world and helping make custom furniture pieces. Special clients that spring to mind are two women I work for in Shibuya and one in Washington; I intrinsically understand their personal style which means I can let them know if I find something that I know they’ll love.
I’ve definitely sacrificed and lived “lean” in the past year to help the business, but being in the deep end forces you to be resourceful and hungry. It’s satisfying to set goals, achieve them and see growth. I think it’s important to track your progress and note achievements.
What was missing from the interiors and homeware space in your opinion?
I think what we have on offer locally is great! There isn’t anything necessarily missing, Fourth St simply offers another perspective. At times I’ve experimented with adding more “basic” everyday items to the store, but what I’ve found is that the pieces customers respond the most to are the more interesting, unique and decorative items. My best-sellers are items that are exclusive to Fourth St, such as the Playing Cards, Beach Sheet, Amethyst Bowls and any of the “Found By Fourth” pieces – these are one-off vintage treasures I’ve hand-picked and sourced myself.
Let’s talk about your amazing buying and sourcing process. You often travel to India to source materials for various products. Can you tell me how this decision came about and how you found contacts in India to make this happen? What challenges did you encounter?
I have a spiritual connection to India. It’s a fascinating place and full of wonder. The beauty of India is that each item is generally supporting a craft; each region has their specialty whether it be stonework, textiles, or brass etc. I love Rajasthan in particular, it has the most amazing history. My first sales trip to India opened my eyes as to what’s available and possible. I went to a steel factory and saw the manual labour and effort involved in making a simple fork; it really made me think about our transient, trend-driven consumer culture and reaffirmed that I only want to make pieces that don’t need replacing, that simply get better with time. I have definitely experienced frustrating cultural barriers, breakdowns in communication and made expensive and avoidable (with hindsight) mistakes when overseas buying. But at the end of the day it’s part of the fun and invaluable learning that still costs less than a university degree!
Sourcing “Found By Fourth” items is personal and has no method. I just choose items that I’m drawn to. There is a lot I want to make for the in-house Fourth Street line but I only execute items once I’m completely happy with the quality and result, which means projects can often take longer but it also means I can confidently stand by them once they’re out in the world. A good example of this is the Playing Cards; these were meant to be ready in the first week of November but ended up taking much longer and weren’t being ready until weekend before Christmas – not ideal! I had quite a few samples made before I was happy with the stock we ended up using. The cards had to be thin enough to be able to shuffle properly, but thick enough to not be flimsy. I ended up laminating textured card so I knew they would last and get better with age – I’m a very tactile person so if I don’t like the way something feels in my hand or if I can’t imagine using them I won’t sell them.
Looking forward to the next 12 months, what do you want for Fourth Street Home in 2020? Do you have any exciting plans or pivots you can share?
I am focusing on making all of my own homeware items – stay tuned!
And lastly, which businesswomen or fellow small business owners have been muses to you? Who do you draw business inspiration from?
I am lucky to be surrounded by friends who are clever, driven and inspiring. A few of them are my sister Latifa who is in a wheelchair and currently writing a book, my girlfriends Georgia Fowler, Olivia Vincent (owner of Muse Boutique), Georgia Alice designer Georgia Currie and brand manager Isabella Lau, Paris Georgia designers Paris Mitchell and Georgia Cherrie, Hannah Martin – who travelled from Auckland to London to co-found a Venture Capital Fund at the age of 29, and Antonia Webb who is one of my oldest friends and the managing editor of The Gentlewoman and Fantastic Man magazines in London.