a-z of new zealand fashion
As NZFW launches in Auckland, we revisit our favourite design talent as well as the people and places helping shape the creatively inspiring city.
Backstage at Wynn Hamlyn
A is for Auckland
Auckland has solid fashion credentials as the home of New Zealand fashion week, and Whitecliffe: the design school that a load of Kiwi talent continues to emerge from. Wellington can claim a similar CV - it's home to the Massey University College of Creative Arts. Tonnes of designers still work out of Auckland: Kate Megaw of Penny Sage shares a studio with Sherie Muij, Harman Grubiša often work from their K Road store, the Lonely HQ is there, and Georgia Alice enjoys a palatial former warehouse space in Eden Terrace.
B is for Beach Brains
Beach Brains is a Kiwi streetwear label that make pants, flannies and simple graphic t-shirts that celebrate beach life without seeming like a corny tourism ad. One tee reads "Live and die by the beach." If you ask us, that's a pretty solid idea.
C is for Miss Crabb
A friend once described Miss Crabb to me so well that I'll just quote him on it: "they're total bogan chicks that make these beautiful silk garments and have become quite revered for it." What else can I say? Nothing, he's nailed it. Last week during NZFW, the label put on a great show - it was one of the highlights of our time in Auckland. They filled an old strip club called the Las Vegas bar with models wearing their new collection, threw a DJ on stage to play back-to-back Young Thug tracks, and had hundreds of noodle boxes delivered straight to the club.
D is for Dunedin
Nom*D, Zambesi, and Jack Hill all call the University town home. Dunedin's atmosphere is heavier than the rest of the country - it's down at the bottom of the South Island, 1,400 kilometres from Auckland. It's kinda the cool, goth sibling that doesn't say much at Christmas. In the past, we've photographed the black brigade of students that reside in the small, culturally rich city. Isolation really does breed ingenuity.
E is for Eugénie
Eugénie is the label of Elizabeth Wilson, former designer assistant to Karen Walker. Wilson makes smart denim pieces and clever tailored shirts that feel young and of-the-moment. The Eugénie parade was one of Fashion Week's strongest: the clothes, cast, and beauty - Elizabeth nailed. Plus, models wore mandarin wigs cut into mullets. So fresh.
G is for Georgia Alice
It's impossible to mention New Zealand without giving the designer her dues. Georgia Currie's label is only four years old, but has the kind of global reach that most designers expect mid-career. When we first sat down with her in 2014, she talked about preparing for International expansion. Now, she's having to turn overseas stockists away. While in Auckland for Fashion Week, we visited her studio to catch up again. She conceded she's basically managed to tick off everything on her bucket list by 26. A couple seasons back, some of Georgia's pieces became such ubiquitous 'it' items she almost got tired of them. We got to peek at her next collection as she readies it for Paris. It's an exciting next step: she's expanding her palette, and experimenting with new textiles, while keeping the denim pieces she's known for.
H is for Huffer
The streetwear label are always around when you need a fresh hoodie or a simple tee. They make sure to put on a good show every year when Fashion Week rolls around, and their afterparties are even better. This year's collection was kinda Huffer-goes-to-Summer-Camp: their logo was slapped on sweaters in a rolling 70s font; girls wore gingham dresses and boys wore baby pink. A pair of silver-haired identical twins called Rain and China opened the show, and half of the city turned up for the afterparty, where October gave a rousing live set. Come for the clothes, stay for the party.
I is for Imogen Wilson
The Kiwi photographer works relentlessly to put New Zealand on the map, shooting just about everyone for, well, just about everyone. Skaters, singers, shopkeepers, designers - you name them, Imogen's shot them. Last week Immy styled Huffer's NZFW show and helped cast a tonne of other presentations through the week. Talk about a powerhouse.
J is for Jimmy D.
James Dobson always knows what's big, and he'll do it even bigger. This season it was oversized silhouettes: ballooning dresses and the longest of long sleeves. We saw the collection live in the flesh at NZFW. Fellow Auckland talent Kingken Chen styled the show, another instance of New Zealand creatives' proclivity to collaborate. James told us his collection was inspired by poetry readings above Time-Out books on Dominion Road. He heard a young poet called Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle read, and ended up using lines of her writing though his show - the sleeves on his tees bare her words "bad Feng Shui." The other prints, he told us, were designed by Parisian collective Ruiz Stephinson. They were inspired by the poisonous Nux Vomica plant, "used in homeopathy to treat erectile dysfunction amongst other things." Another print that reads "Les Fleurs du Mal," named for a collection of poetry by Baudelaire "banned when released for obscenity," James explains.
K is for Kingkang Chen
Kingkang Chen was born in Tianjin, China, though he moved to New Zealand to pursue fashion as soon as he was able. "There was no fashion, no art galleries or museums [in Tiajin] at all," he told us last year. His eponymous label always releases genderless collections, because to him, "gender is a very blurry thing." We fell for Chen earlier this year when he showed his latest collection in Melbourne at VAMFF. His clever distressed denim pieces recall Alex Mullins, and his statement coats are more akin to Ashish's sequinned delights.
L is for Lucilla Grey
Lucilla Grey landed on our radar this time last year at NZFW. Her clean 70s silhouettes and swinging bell sleeves in sorbet colours stood out. This year, Lucilla continued to grow. The focus was on marbled psychedelic prints and riffs on the Japanese Obi in her usual palette: lemon, green, white and grey. We can't wait for the collection to hit the market: Arvida Byström and Mel B are already fans.
M is for Motel Bible
Motel Bible isn't a new label, but its name is: it used to go by AJ Bradley. Presumably, designer AJ Bradley was no longer interested in an eponymous project. This year at NZFW she debuted a new collection of giant knits and lazer-cut leather. Nothing's yet available for sale, but it was certainly the best graduate collection that showed during fashion week.
N is for New Faces
New Zealand's models are kinda the best thing about fashion week. The country has given us some memorable faces over the years; think Ashleigh Good, Lili Sumner and Holly Rose Emery. Stella Maxwell was discovered while attending University in Dundedin. Our favourite male models we met during our time in Auckland were Lincoln Van Vaught, Eddy Richards and Ariki. Other favourite faces included Honor Munro and Calissa Teiniker, Tess Angel, Gala Richards and Sophia Frankish.
O is for The Others
The Others is a street casting agency that's sprung up in Wellington and Auckland this year, giving shine to talent otherwise too short, tattooed or weird for the big Kiwi agencies. Their models were all over fashion week, and on the pages of i-D.
P is for Sarah Parker
We're in love with the recent graduate's ultra-fluffy puffer jackets, silky two-piece sets and her sweet prints. We've photographed her work before, and flagged her as one of the country's most promising young voices in fashion. Seeing her collection in the flesh at NZFW just confirmed the hunch. Sarah's clothes are plain old fun. She's a colourful dream, we can't wait for her to go into production.
R is for Le Roy
Le Roy is more of a global publication, nevertheless, its founder Kelvin Soh is a Kiwi. The magazine is like an op-shop in print: there are fashion shoots, cartoons, short fiction and screen plays. It's a total mixed bag, pulled off with complete confidence. In conversation with i-D, Kelvin recounted one of his editorial decisions so far: "for Issue 4 we ran the work of a London based artist named Mat Jenner in the place of ads. He makes works that use existing magazine ads as material so we approached him for a feature in the Lifestyle Issue. We thought it'd be fitting to display his work in the place of where ads would normally go."
S is for Shark Week
The Wellington store is one of the country's freshest retail spaces. It's a treat that kinda hurts your eyes - like a visual Jawbreaker. We talked to Tom Wright, the store's owner, when he first opened his doors last year. "I have always wanted to open up a store exactly like this one," he gushed, "The location, the fish, the indoor mini basketball, a place for my friends to hang out and display their talents as well." Wellington as a whole is going off right now: shout out to Olly De Salis.
T is for twenty-seven names
One of New Zealand's more established players, twenty-seven names grow more ambitious each year. They make the kind of clothes you'd want your little sister to wear. This year at NZFW designers Rachel Easting and Anjali Stewart decided against a traditional runway show. Instead, they presented their collection by way of a photo exhibition at local gallery. Each look had a frame of its own, and the whole thing was shot by our man James K Lowe.
U is for Underwear
We couldn't go without mentioning Lonely, the Auckland-via-the-world label that went viral with their perfectly lit flat lays and original take on lingerie. Recently, they shot Lena Dunham and Jemima Kirke in the label. Founded by Helene Morris and her partner Steve Ferguson in 2009, then under the name Lonely Hearts, the brand was guided by a simple ideology: "No padding, no push ups, no thongs." Today, the brand has a truly global following, though they'll never leave New Zealand. Last year Helene told us how special the county's history of "great women doing great things" is to her. "Kate Sheppard, Jean Batten, and Katherine Mansfield changed our landscape and shaped our entire world for the better." She explains Kiwi girls know "they can really change things for the better." Hear hear.
W is for Wynn Hamlyn
For his latest collection, Wynn looked down for inspiration: straight to the floor. The Auckland boy sent models down the runway clutching carpeted bag, carpeted coats, and wearing carpeted shawls over their neatly tailored collared shirts. The models were given the huge blowouts of 80s career women, so the whole thing just screamed power. The womenswear designer cites Dries van Noten and Alessandro Dell'Acqua as role models, though he might soon become one himself.
Y is for Yarn
For some reason, Kiwis do knits especially well. Maybe it's because they know they have to protect themselves from the elements. Penny Sage is an expert with yarn, as is Harry Were. For a long while Harry was just designing jumpers for herself and having local artists make them. After enough friends requested their own versions she made her personal pieces available for public sale. "Lots of people and friends inspire me, but so does New Zealand itself," she told us last year. "Even if I'm not doing jumpers with landscape scenes-which I have done-but in the textures and colours I'm using. I picked them up from my surroundings here."
Z is for Zoey Radford Scott
Zoey Radford Scott is a young designer who serves up pastel two-pieces and bomber jackets. Zoey graduated from the Massey University College of Creative Arts last year, which counts Collette Dinnigan and Kate Sylvester as alumni. Zoey's also a talented stylist, who's worked on shoots for i-D in the past - a true multi-hyphenate.