DINZ Partner Interview - a Concorde, a Bet & a Million Dollar Deal

Roger Green, Managing Director of Maxwell Rodgers Fabrics has a few yarns to spin. We caught up with the globetrotting, highly experienced textiles man to hear about his background and where the industry might be headed.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei artist Beronia Scott's Pipi Kete.

There is a story that Roger Green likes to tell often. So often, in fact, that according to him: “my wife and kids are sick of it!”

It all began on a Monday morning back in the 70s. He was in his first ‘real’ job at Feltex Carpets when he received a phone call from a British designer working on a large hotel project in Dubai.

They wanted him to pitch for the supply of carpets and they wanted him to do it in person, in London, within a week’s time.

There was a wedding to be missed (not his own, thankfully), but the young Roger convinced management that the trip, on a first class ticket, was worth it.

He called the designer back. “Oh, you must go via Dubai and meet Abdul who is a friend of the sheikh who owns the hotel!” came the response and although it would have taken up to a month to get a visa to enter the Middle Eastern country, the fact that Abdul was involved, meant Roger had carte blanche to travel immediately and be granted access upon landing. 

It all kept getting a bit more ‘international man of mystery’ after that.

On his arrival, Roger learned that the idea for the trip had started when the architects and the developers – drinking port late one night – made a bet that the young, keen antipodean would accept the meeting and arrive faster than one of his competitors who was based a mere three blocks away.

He proved them right and after the meetings, travelled back home – via New York, on a Concorde, of course – with a cool $1 million deal in his back pocket.

Tim Webber Design, for Comvita Well-ness Lab Theatre Chair in Maxwell Rodgers Fabrics NZ Wool.

In a way, this story  – which he tells with gusto and a lingering smile – reflects a few of the themes that have followed Roger for much of his carpet and textiles career: a keenness to get the job done and a fervent internationalism

Roger, through his company Maxwell Rodgers Fabrics has by now found a very distinct niche in providing textiles to international hotels and cruise ships with a smattering of commissions in various other industries such as hospitals and upholstery.

One of his recent projects for the Park Hyatt Hotel in Auckland (by Conran and Partners with Pete Bossley Architects) has seen him collaborate with a local local Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, Beronia Scott, for the creation of tukutuku panels which adorn many of the luxury rooms.

“I had to do a bit of work on [understanding] really what they were trying to achieve in terms of the texture and structure, but that was great,” he says, hinting at another, likely project involving traditional weaving in the near future.

Tukutuku by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei artist Beronia Scott. 

“An early lesson I learnt was you could have the best quality in the world, at the best price, but if the design is not appropriate to the market opportunity then it will go nowhere,” he says, “colour and design drive the process – and after that, consideration of environmental benefits  - in which wool scores highly - delivery, service and price”.

Roger is passionate about New Zealand wool and is not the only one noticing the growing popularity of the product. He does, however, note that clients are getting more and more interested in understanding the whole supply chain rather than just the end product.

“There's about 300 Kiwis employed in the different mills,” he says, “[they] process the wool from the sheep's back through to the woven product. So it's great for the economy and it's great for the environment.”  His wool products are woven by Inter-Weave who also supply global companies such as Knoll, Fabricut, HBF and Pollock as well as clients in both New Zealand and Australia, servicing interiors and apparel. “We live in a global world really when it comes to trade,” he says.

So, what does this award-winning exporter have to say about our shut borders, about the pandemic response and what some experts are seeing as a sort of ‘deglobalisation’ of world trade? 

“Look, wage subsidies are fine, but the real risk that we face is losing our customer base,” he says, talking of his pipeline to the US currently suffering, in part from his inability to move freely back and forth. “That's not [being] factored into this whatsoever.

All that [subsidy] does is cover a few costs, but it really doesn't say what's the real damage, and the real damage is customers saying, ‘we're not going to buy from you anymore because you're too unreliable,’ and I think that that is a subject that needs to be addressed.”

Former Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Helen Clark and Roger Green.

DINZ Interviews

When the opportunity arises, DINZ interviews leading designers from here and overseas. These interviews seek to dig beneath the surface to address the common and uncommon challenges, problems and opportunities the design community faces.