Natalie Procter on closing down her beloved label Mina

25 March 2024
By Amberley Colby

It’s goodbye for now, but hopefully not forever, as Natalie Procter’s homegrown fashion brand shuts up shop.

Natalie Procter (right) with her mother, Michelle (left).

Local label Mina has been a mainstay in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland’s Grey Lynn shops for several years now. Standing shoulder to shoulder with tastemakers like Rachel Mills and Thom Morison, the brand’s ongoing commitment to community, quality and transparency — not to mention its timeless, locally made garments — have earned it a devoted customer base over its six years in operation.

However, like many good things, Mina’s journey is coming to an end in 2024. Launched by designer Natalie Procter with the help of her mother, Michelle, back in 2017, the brand will close the doors to its flagship store in March ’24 to commence “an indefinite pause”.

When I catch up with Procter in January, several months before Mina’s planned closure, she has a quietly calm and resolute air about her. “Running a business takes a hundred percent of you all the time,” she admits candidly over video call. “You’re always working because it’s your business, and at the end of the day, you get out what you put in.”

When Procter began Mina at the tender age of 22, she built it around a strong set of values. Despite graduating from university in Pōneke/Wellington with no intention of starting her own label, Procter was inspired to found the brand (which she named after her grandmother, Wilhelmina) after a six-week seed-to-garment trip to India. “I went straight out of uni and started the brand very naively, but when I reflect on it now, if I had known what I was getting myself into, I probably wouldn’t have started,” she says. “So I think going in that way was probably the best way to do it.” In spite of the obvious challenges, Procter quickly realised she’d found something she truly loved doing.

Behind the Scenes of Mina's NZFW Breakfast 2019. Photo: Ashleigh Brookbank.
Procter visiting one of her cutters in Onehunga when Mina's Winter 23 range was on the table. Photo: Kate Battersby.
Mina summer 2022 campaign. Photo: Heidi Watson.

With production based entirely out of Auckland, a huge part of Mina’s charm has been the fact that it has remained small, local and well made — a rarity within the fashion industry today. “We’ve really built our brand on our local community and built those relationships with suppliers here,” says Procter. Never straying far from its roots, the brand has always favoured enduring natural fabrics and timeless designs over fleeting trends. “My goal was to never let my values waiver or get swayed,” she says. “I’ve always tried to block out the noise and do what I’m good at and represent the brand well.”

When the opportunity arose in early 2020 to open a proper retail space, Procter jumped at the chance, despite being in an active Covid lockdown at the time. “Opening a store in the midst of Covid was a pretty ballsy decision when I look back now, but at the time, it kind of all just happened really organically,” she explains. Having a physical store in one of Auckland’s most prominent suburbs proved to be significant for Mina’s growth, with direct-to-consumer and online sales both expanding massively.

Since the beginning, Mina has operated as a mother-daughter duo, with Michelle focussed on the technical side of the business while Procter worked on design. They remained a small but dynamic unit, only bringing on employees in the last few years. Reflecting on their journey, Procter feels grateful she got the opportunity to work so closely with her mother. “I guess when you’re working, you’re just so in it and it kind of just becomes your norm, so you don’t quite step back and appreciate that you’re working with your mum,” she explains, “and when I’m older I’m going to look back on it and think, ‘Wow, that was such a special [experience] that the two of us started this brand together.’” Growing a team has been another one of the most rewarding parts about owning her own brand. “Finding the right girls who really championed the brand and shared the same values as me was so amazing,” she says. “We’ve built a really lovely community in Grey Lynn… it’s going to be quite sad to leave.”

“As I look forward, having a family is a main priority for me, and I want to ensure that I’m healthy and ready for that next step.”

'One Woman To Another' campaign, 2019. Photo: Luke Foley Martin.
Winter 2023 campaign, behind the scenes with Katya Brook. Photo: Kate Battersby.

It would be easy to assume that, as a small brand, Mina’s reason for going on hiatus is a financial one, given all the labels, both local and international, that have shut up shop recently. But unlike the many businesses that went under during the Covid pandemic, when Mina opened its flagship store in the midst of an early lockdown, it weathered a storm that not every label was able to. In fact, according to Procter, the brand’s most recent years in business have been its most triumphant yet. Its latest collection was the best selling on record. So why close now, at the top of its game?

Despite Mina’s success, the reality is that it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Procter personally. In 2021, she discovered she had a malignant ovarian tumour, which would eventually result in her losing an ovary. “I’ve had a few health challenges, which have resulted in a couple of surgeries, which have impacted my fertility,” says the designer. Though transparency has always been a core value for Mina, Procter chose not to speak publicly about her health struggles until recently, to avoid blurring the lines between her life and the brand. “I’ve never really spoken much about my personal life,” she says. “I intentionally wanted that because I didn’t want [my identity] to be the brand, because I mean, you’ve always got to be on, especially with social media and everything. I’m at least slightly removed from the brand, which is good.”

Procter’s health has had a profound impact on her ability to run her label and, despite persevering over the last couple of years, she feels it’s time to refocus her priorities. “As I look forward, having a family is a main priority for me, and I want to ensure that I’m healthy and ready for that next step,” she says. “So this is the main reason why I’ve decided that now is the time for me to take a break.”

Whether it’s truly the end for Mina, we’re not yet sure. After the brand has its final sale and moves out of Grey Lynn, Procter has a clear focus: “Giving myself space. Taking a breath.” Having recently relocated to Mount Maunganui, she’s looking forward to embracing a slower pace of life. “It’s just been a 24/7 grind,” she says. “I haven’t given myself the opportunity to build a life here really. I’m just gonna see what naturally unfolds and if it feels right to come back into the industry at some point, I will.”

I’ve always found truth in the idea that when one door closes, another one opens, and for Mina, that much is certain.

This article originally featured in Fashion Quarterly autumn 2024.

Words: Amberley Colby.

Imagery: supplied.


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