Cindy Marriott’s exciting new brand – NZ Farm Girl - is as homegrown as it gets, hailing from Tinui, deep in the Wairarapa countryside.
And it comes with an empowering message for country girls and ‘townies’ alike. It was while working at Battle Hill Farm Park, where husband Andy was the ranger, that Cindy Marriott got her inspiration. Her two daughters Samantha, then 4, and Charlize, 2, were in the thick of it in the paddocks, helping out as usual. And Cindy could see it wasn’t going to be too long before another set of clothes would be falling apart from all the wear and tear.
Where were the warm, durable clothes for active young girls like her daughters? And could you get something that wasn’t either pink and ‘over-the-top girlie’ or khaki green and camp-patterned? With no obvious answers, Cindy decided to solve the problem herself and the idea for NZ Farm Girl clothing brand was born. “I wanted to create clothes that were stylish and feminine but also functional and comfortable to wear – things that stand the test of time rather than being dictated by fashion trends,” says Cindy.
That was nine years ago, and the couple now leases a 280ha sheep and beef farm at Tinui, 40 km east of Masterton. Cindy put the wheels in motion last year by enrolling in the Certificate in Small Business Management course where she got positive feedback, especially from course tutor Jeanette Hall who has remained a mentor. With her online shop up and running, she’s in what she describes as a “testing the water” phase, showcasing her merchandise at rural fairs, equestrian events and even dog trials. Next up is Equidays, a major event on the equine calendar, to be held at Mystery Creek Events Centre, Hamilton, in October.
Working with Wellington-based companies Umsiko and James Battlefield, she’s developed a range of T-shirts, hoodies, caps and beanies, and her accessories line features branded drink bottles, enamel cups, note books and pens. She’ll soon be introducing cargo pants, overalls, shirts and polos, which are proudly made in NZ. Although specifically targeted for country girls aged four to 12, the range is also proving popular with ‘townies’ and adults. “I went to the dog trials at Tinui and got a lot of enquiries from women there who were keen to wear the T-shirts, so I had to swing into getting adult sizes made.”
At Thorndon Fair, the T-shirts also proved popular with tourists. “They like the fact that the range reflects New Zealand and our farming heritage and culture, and horse lovers and the equestrian community who connect with the logo and the country theme,” she says.
Cindy feels a good part of her early success is due to her daughters and their friends being involved early on - giving their feedback on the range and putting the gear through its paces in the field. “All our clothing is ‘farm-tested’ by girls for girls!” says Cindy.
Samantha and her friends also embody what the NZ Farm Girl brand is all about. From an early age they’ve been helping their parents with mustering, shearing, docking, and caring for the animals. In July, Samantha alongside her two Tinui teammates Maddie Taylor and Georgia Higinbottom, won top honours in the AgriKidsNZ grand final in Timaru. Months of study, training and fundraising went into the event, which runs alongside the prestigious FMG Young Farmer of the Year. No room for frills and flounces here, the trio built a bookshelf, judged different classes of stock and connected a fuel pump - among other challenges - wearing their NZ Farm Girl hoodies throughout. “The girls have been raised with the idea that ‘girls can do anything’, and they really do!” says Cindy.
Horses are another passion and it was a thrill when Vicki Wilson of Keeping Up With The Kaimanawas fame wore a NZFG T-shirt at the CopRice Showtym Camp in Masterton in March, which the girls also attended. The family’s farming skills were learnt on the job, and their connection to Wairarapa started with the couple getting married here. Andy started out as a qualified builder but he always had a hankering to get out on the land. Working at Battle Hill Farm Park reinforced this. “It was ‘full immersion’ but it’s felt right ever since,” says Cindy. They bought Burgundy Cottage in Martinborough as a holiday escape, so when a farming job came up in the Wairarapa they were already familiar with the region. Cindy now runs the cottage as a homestay alongside developing her business and a part time job in Tinui.
She has her sights set on NZ Farm Girl becoming a nationally recognised brand and, from years of working on the land and raising a family (she’s also mum to six-year-old Ben) she is not afraid of the hard yards it will take to get there. But if the response so far is anything to go by, she’s onto a good thing. And of course it helps that she’s got her own very proud ‘NZ Farm girls’ by her side.
Kylie Meredith Photography