Our People - Greta Washington

Reflecting On 15 Years with Greta

Head over Heels (HOH) Christchurch has turned 15 and it's been quite the journey for the founders Greta and Mary. We sat down with Greta to get to know her better and talk about Head over Heels history and some of the highlights and challenges along the way.
How did HOH come about?
I was studying when Mum opened the Timaru store but I came home to help get it started. I designed the store and helped with the buying, which led me to stay and run the store for the first six months. I absolutely loved the experience and it inspired me to open a store in Christchurch.
Did you have a background in fashion and what inspired you to get into footwear?
I've always had a passion for anything related to fashion and design. I'm naturally drawn to beautiful things, mostly fashion, architecture and furniture. I was studying Design at CPIT and was a few papers away from finishing my degree. When Mum opened the Timaru store, I got a taste for business and realised that retail business was where my passion lies. I love the diverse roles that come with being in business.
What were the main challenges in starting a business? What have been some challenges over the years and how do you deal with setbacks?
When I first started the business I was overcoming Chronic Fatigue Syndrome after struggling with it for 7 years prior. I would have relapses of CFS over the next 10 years and often relied a lot on Mum to step in with the team while I focussed on getting better. I was very lucky and grateful that my staff were so supportive and understanding.
When you're not well, making decisions becomes really challenging, and inspiring your team is even harder.
There are always challenges that come your way in life and of course in business. I think I’ve learned to adapt, think quickly and rise to meet challenges that come my way. You have to keep pushing forward and find a way.
How has the industry changed over the years and how has the business evolved?
Operationally - massively. When we first started it was much simpler. We relied on traditional forms of advertising such as local magazines or newspapers to reach our customers. All our customer interactions were either face-to-face or over the phone. These days with e-commerce and social media we can also connect with customers all over the world through various channels, such as Messenger, Instagram, email, phone calls and text. 
The operational to-do list is never-ending and we now have a full team running the behind-the-scenes of the business, on top of our amazing staff dedicated to serving our loyal customers in-store. We do all our photoshoots in-house and I, our graphic designer and online manager work continually behind the scenes to maintain the website and all our social media channels.
I really love how everything has evolved. It makes the business very exciting but also keeps us on our toes. Even with the changes in retail one thing has always remained the same for us since the day we opened - our customers always come first!
What does a typical day look like for you?
Cuddles in bed with my three-year-old James. Daycare drop off and then STRAIGHT to get coffee! After my home morning routine, no two days are the same!
My days vary between working in-store, attending staff meetings, planning our marketing, attending buying appointments, participating in photoshoots (usually behind the camera, sometimes in front of the camera), ripping into new stock and all the behind-the-scenes admin that’s boring but has to be done.
What are you most grateful for on your business journey?
The loyal community that has supported us through thick and thin. There have been some really challenging events and challenges since we opened, including when the GFC hit, the Christchurch earthquakes, operating in Re:Start Container Mall while the city was being rebuilt around us, Covid-19, and economic downturns over the past 15 years. Without our loyal followers, we wouldn’t be able to do what we love.
Over the years I’ve been really lucky to have staff who are very loyal, kind and who care about the business and customers as much as Mum and I do. I believe our success is a result of our amazing team, which includes our wonderful staff.
What is it about fashion that you love?
There is so much that I love about fashion. First of all, it is constantly evolving and changing - nothing stays the same. Fashion is more than just clothes and shoes, it’s a lot about connecting with people and making them feel good. I love that you can brighten and make someone's day.

What are you most proud of and what are the moments that stand out to you?
Establishing HOH again in the Christchurch CBD 1 year after the earthquakes. Not only did we survive but we continued to thrive and grow the business in a city that was just starting to rebuild after a devastating natural disaster.
In 2012 we opened the store in the RE:Start Container Mall. Apart from the other container stores and Ballantynes, we were surrounded by demolition sites. Deciding where to lease a store is difficult in normal circumstances. This was even harder, as we weren’t sure if our customers would come back into the city, but I was passionate about supporting the rebuild.
This was very special to me as I loved the CBD and couldn’t see us being anywhere else. But with the whole city flattened out by the earthquake it felt like a mission impossible. I’m super proud that we’ve managed to keep operating here despite all the challenges. It’s so cool to see it thriving again!

How would you describe your style in 3 words?
Understated, luxe, tailored (and black).

Where is your favourite destination and why?
Italy! I love how passionate and free-spirited the people are. The architecture, the vibe, just everything! It’s hard to go past a double shot of Italian espresso too.

What do you do to unwind?
I don’t really unwind, I love being on the go and hyped up! If I do, I love going for a walk and being in nature, or having a sauna and an ice bath.
What’s something most customers wouldn’t know about you?
I’d be just as happy on a farm in the countryside as I am in the city. I really love fashion and design which pulls me into the city.

What’s in store for the next 15 years of HOH?
I feel like we’re only just getting started. Expect to see many more collaborations with new and existing designers and our in-house brands evolve. You might even see us located in other spots in the country… Watch this space!
More fabulous shoes, a tonne of coffee and good times with good people. Bring on the next 15 years!


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