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After spending the last week of August in Auckland for New Zealand Fashion Week, we kind of fell in love. The city, culture, people, food and, of course, the fashion—all of it made us swoon. We got hooked on the Kiwi approach to life; it’s relaxed and nonchalant, yet filled with passion and creativity, the definition of effortlessly cool. In just seven days, we met scores of inspiring people, including our newest group of pals –– 10 Kiwi indie boutique owners and designers. We’re beyond stoked to have them as a part of our community and know you will be too. Here, they share their thoughts on New Zealand style, the fashion industry and wardrobe essentials. Oh, and karaoke songs too.
Penny Sage is an independent womenswear line designed in New Zealand by Kate Megaw. Her garments are the kind of pieces that’ll stick with you for years. Everything is produced within 30 kilometers of the company’s studio, by family-run and locally-owned businesses. Working with natural materials, such as silk and cotton, the Penny Sage collection is lush with easy to wear, easy to style pieces made for longevity.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE NEW ZEALAND STYLE? Always relaxed and pared back.
WHAT MAKES THE KIWI APPROACH TO STYLE UNIQUE? The New Zealand lifestyle is quite unlike other parts of the world. Our weather here in Auckland tends to be mild year round and our landscape changes very quickly from urban to rural. I think we tend to opt for clothes that can take us from city to beach to bush walk and back again without fuss.
HOW HAS THE NEW ZEALAND FASHION INDUSTRY CHANGED OVER THE YEARS? When I first started working in the New Zealand fashion industry, there was a recession happening. The industry was shrinking and it was a strange time for the local fashion scene. Ten years later, the industry feels like it’s finally gaining momentum again. There is a fresh energy and passion for creating locally, as well as utilising the skills and talent of makers living in NZ. When I first started Penny Sage, it wasn’t a big selling point to sell locally-produced clothing. Since then, there has been a major positive shift in attitudes towards supporting locally-made products – something central to my ethos as a designer.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE NEW ZEALAND FASHION COMMUNITY? Working with talented makers who impart their time, energy and skills into creating our garments.
SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS CARRY WITH YOU? Maryse Treatment Balm and Marta Katarzyna Buda handwoven bag.
YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG? I’m terrified of public performance, but if I had to, I unfortunately know all the words to ‘Honey I’m Home’ by Shania Twain.
Designed in New Zealand, Laing Home is the result of Anna Murray’s search for the elusive, perfect pair of pyjamas. With a focus on well-tailored classics, Laing Home offers effortless style for night, morning, and the time in between. Made from pure silks, luxury cottons or sumptuous cashmere, all are designed for comfort without relinquishing elegance.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE NEW ZEALAND STYLE? It’s casual, with a ‘did not try too hard’ approach. But don't mistake that for lack of style or fashion forwardness. It’s just that New Zealanders often like clothing that takes them through day and into the night. Our lifestyle is very fluid and our style reflects that.
HAS NEW ZEALAND ALWAYS HAD A STRONG STYLE COMMUNITY OR HAS IT GROWN A LOT IN RECENT YEARS? There has always been a strong style community in New Zealand, but it grew hugely when the top designers—Karen Walker, Kate Sylvester, World, Zambesi—took their brands to the global stage in the early 2000s. This proved to all the young, up-and-coming designers that it could be done and that borders were no impediment.
HOW HAS THE NEW ZEALAND FASHION INDUSTRY CHANGED OVER THE YEARS? It’s grown in confidence, that’s the biggest change. The industry has learnt that we can foot it with the best in the world, that our style is desirable.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE NEW ZEALAND FASHION COMMUNITY? Willingness to help and support each other. Often your greatest fans in social media are other designers. It’s a small community, so people move around, sharing ideas and learnings.
WHAT ARE YOUR WARDROBE ESSENTIALS? Years of trial and error have taught me to wear what works for one’s own style, body shape, etcetera. For me, that’s denim, white shirts (often collarless), classic tees, a blazer, a great winter coat, cashmere, wide-leg pants and great sunglasses.
SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS CARRY WITH YOU? A notebook. I’m old school and can’t be bothered typing in thoughts and lists on my phone. There is something more considered about writing it down.
YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG? No karaoke can mask my tuneless voice! Supporter, not performer.
Founded in 2004 by Kristine Crabb, Miss Crabb takes a subversive approach to shape, proportion and beauty so that each piece transcends time, age and place. The patterns, which Kristine cuts herself, are often basic geometric shapes which delicately transform natural materials, such as silk, linen and cotton, into modern, quietly poetic and enduring pieces. The clothes are made to be interpreted by the wearer, encouraging singularity and freedom.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE NEW ZEALAND STYLE? It’s very eclectic, it reflects our relatively short history. It’s inspired by the landscape, the light and the down-to-earth lifestyle.
HOW HAS THE NEW ZEALAND FASHION INDUSTRY CHANGED OVER THE YEARS? It has almost been revolutionised I think, both in terms of production and commerce. It’s such an interesting time. Only a few years ago, most fashion and apparel items sold in NZ were made in NZ. The industry was so strong, but it was also very limited. Marketing and selling fashion online now means the world is your market and your competition, which means you have to be clever and really fuckin’ good at what you do.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE NEW ZEALAND FASHION COMMUNITY? Everyone is pretty supportive and friendly because everyone understands how challenging and kind of isolating it can be. The fans and customers are so loyal too.
WHAT ARE YOUR WARDROBE ESSENTIALS? Amazing shoes, beautiful underwear and Miss Crabb jeans and tees with red lipstick. I’m a mother of three little kids so I wish I had more time to prep my lewk a bit more, haha.
SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS CARRY WITH YOU? The love for my kids.
YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG? My kids are against my singing, dancing and performing repertoire!
Sherie Muijs garnered widespread attention and a national award from her debut collection of crisp white shirts entitled “White Wash.” This range became the platform for season after season of others, exploring both form and function. With a sole focus on shirts, Sherie Rai’s designs are created to be worn and loved with time. Selecting materials of the finest nature and putting painstaking attention into the production of her garments are her trademarks.
HOW HAS THE NEW ZEALAND FASHION INDUSTRY CHANGED OVER THE YEARS? The fashion industry is constantly changing. The rise of online shopping, the influx of major overseas retailers, the interconnectedness of trends through social media—all of these have accelerated new resources for design. In the face of all this change, there is a strong movement away from mass consumerism and toward supporting local designers and industries here. There is a contingent of independent designers and makers going out on their own to create interesting work that feels authentic and unique.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE NEW ZEALAND FASHION COMMUNITY? Firstly, I’m glad that there is one! The fashion community, like fashion itself, is diverse. In my community, I feel fortunate to be surrounded by a circle of women who are very open, multi-talented and work collaboratively. Working in this environment brings strength and color to our work.
WHAT ARE YOUR WARDROBE ESSENTIALS? A white cotton shirt, high-waisted jeans and tailored trousers with a crewneck tee.
SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS CARRY WITH YOU? Currently, car keys with my swimsuit in the backseat, very ‘90s sunglasses and, more often than not, my young son on my left hip.
YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG? Fleetwood Mac, ‘Dreams’
Since Salasai’s inception in 2006, designer Kirsha Whitcher has created a brand that is renowned for bold prints, soft tailoring and languid aesthetics. Dark and unassuming, each season is crafted to be innovative yet timeless. The brand was founded in New Zealand then made the move to Western Australia in 2012 where designer Kelly Watson joined. Although situated in Australia, the pair always go home to New Zealand to shoot their lookbooks and creative content.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE NEW ZEALAND STYLE? Relaxed and nonchalant, we tend to wear things loose and effortlessly. We layer and mix in streetwear with high fashion well.
HAS NEW ZEALAND ALWAYS HAD A STRONG STYLE COMMUNITY OR HAS IT GROWN A LOT IN RECENT YEARS? With the founders of NZ fashion, such as Zambezi and Karen Walker, who have put NZ design on the map 20 years ago, we’re lucky they built a strong design community for the younger brands to then come through.
HOW HAS THE NEW ZEALAND FASHION INDUSTRY CHANGED OVER THE YEARS? I believe it has gotten stronger. There are many designers in NZ setting new benchmarks for fashion design.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE NEW ZEALAND FASHION COMMUNITY? Our retailers support NZ design brands well. We are proud of our own, and consumers then support NZ design by buying and wearing it proudly—the best thing ever about the NZ fashion community.
YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG? Whitney Houston’s ‘I Get So Emotional.’
Born in 2004 out of a need to bring fashion from around the world to New Zealand, Good as Gold is both a boutique and a community. The unique treehouse-inspired space was designed by Ruben Bryant and his architect father and based of their nostalgic memories of building tree forts together. Warm, fun and functional, Good as Gold has the most down-to-earth, exceptional service all while stocking the best in fashion and streetwear.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE NEW ZEALAND STYLE? It’s pretty diverse and forward for a country of 4 million people, but generally people dress understated and relaxed, just like our Kiwi lifestyle.
WHAT MAKES THE KIWI APPROACH TO STYLE UNIQUE? With 30 million sheep and 7 million cows a lot of New Zealanders wear gumboots.
HAS NEW ZEALAND ALWAYS HAD A STRONG STYLE COMMUNITY OR HAS IT GROWN A LOT IN RECENT YEARS? Yes, I think we have always had a strong fashion community, and with the internet shrinking the fashion community globally, we are now even more in tune with the global fashion and streetwear scene.
HOW HAS THE NEW ZEALAND FASHION INDUSTRY CHANGED OVER THE YEARS? The New Zealand Fashion week event has been shrinking as more brands sell direct and change up the classic seasonal sells. But with the industry changing, there are more and more independent brands popping up and growing through less conventional means. We have some super exciting young designers coming up.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE NEW ZEALAND FASHION COMMUNITY? It’s small and very friendly.
WHAT ARE YOUR WARDROBE ESSENTIALS? I’m pretty relaxed, so a crisp tee and a rad cap gets me by most days.
YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG? ‘Paradise City,’ Guns ‘n’ Roses.
Designer Kate Sylvester’s conceptual collections embody intelligence, witty irreverence, sophistication and modern femininity. She believes the true value of clothing is in its design—how it’s made and how long it will last. That being said, Kate is committed to supporting the local garment production industry by producing locally-made, high quality garments. Leatherette, feminine lace and a sharp suit are the cornerstones of any Kate Sylvester collection.
WHAT MAKES THE KIWI APPROACH TO STYLE UNIQUE? Our understated eccentricity. We don’t shout about it, but we celebrate the individual.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE NEW ZEALAND FASHION COMMUNITY? We are friends.
WHAT ARE YOUR WARDROBE ESSENTIALS? A boyfriend suit and a billowy dress.
SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS CARRY WITH YOU? My fire engine red lipstick.
YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG? ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ by Iggy Pop.
Auckland designer Lela Jacobs works out of her open studio and concept store, The Keep. Here, customers can watch the inner workings of Lela’s own, eponymous line as its being crafted. With a cutting table and machines in-store, shoppers view the entire scope of production, from pattern-making to garment construction, and can then take the finished product home. Cool, right?
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE NEW ZEALAND STYLE? Being that we have a definite summer and winter it changes seasonally. We do wear a lot of black here, but to be honest I feel the NZ style is varied—each-to-their-own tribe can coexist here.
WHAT MAKES THE KIWI APPROACH TO STYLE UNIQUE? We are geographically disconnected from the rest of the world yet multicultural, so maybe this creates an East meets West mashup? Also access to fabrics is limited, so design is a little more directed by this I think.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE NEW ZEALAND FASHION COMMUNITY? The loyalty from customers and the support from other brands and designers. There is not a lot of competitive nastiness here as we just don't have the room for it.
WHAT ARE YOUR WARDROBE ESSENTIALS? I'm a uniform lady. When I have a new outfit it can live a good half a year. Today, I actually have a new dress on. It's a silk linen smock with a great poem running down one side of it. This will do me for a while now!
SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS CARRY WITH YOU? Possum socks.
The name Ovna Ovich pays homage to the Russian heritage of designer Marina Davis, who founded the New Zealand-based label. From the outset, Ovna Ovich has been a dedication to making environmentally and socially aware work that is elegant and effortless. Think polished silhouettes with delicate details, such as a feminine ruche or textured linen fabric. The collections are released as chapters for the refined, compassionate woman, who is fearless and ready for the adventure.
WHAT MAKES THE KIWI APPROACH TO STYLE UNIQUE? There is a certain sense of humbleness that comes with the way we dress.
HAS NEW ZEALAND ALWAYS HAD A STRONG STYLE COMMUNITY OR HAS IT GROWN A LOT IN RECENT YEARS? Ever since I've been around it has, but with the advent of social media, a window has opened to the rest of the world.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE NEW ZEALAND FASHION COMMUNITY? Open-mindedness.
WHAT ARE YOUR WARDROBE ESSENTIALS? A long dress, loose pants and an excellent shirt.
SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS CARRY WITH YOU? The usual suspects—wallet, phone, keys— and I also try to remember gratitude.
YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG? Good question, I can never think of a song on the spot. Maybe it should be Nelly Furtado, 'I'm Like a Bird.'
Unfussy and modern, Georgia Jay is made for those who appreciate functional accessories made with a new sense of luxury — one that is steeped in consideration for both design and the environment. Each Georgia Jay piece is happily made in New Zealand, with the application of slow fashion and an ongoing focus to use natural materials and hand finishings. With a focus on tactility through her entire working process, from initial idea to the final product, her hands have been involved.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE NEW ZEALAND STYLE? Relaxed, fun and quirky but with a strong emphasis on practicality and quality.
HAS NEW ZEALAND ALWAYS HAD A STRONG STYLE COMMUNITY OR HAS IT GROWN A LOT IN RECENT YEARS? I feel like it's grown a lot and continuing too. There is currently a big global movement and awareness around ethical production and a strong attraction to unique, handmade goods. New Zealand has a very strong community of designers and artists with the hands-on, handmade approach which has become so desirable and supported both locally and globally!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE NEW ZEALAND FASHION COMMUNITY? I think because we are such a small country, we are all so close to each other making it easy to not only work together but generally support each other and collaborate on all kinds of projects! We have formed a really tight community, and that's something very special, something not to be taken for granted!
WHAT ARE YOUR WARDROBE ESSENTIALS? Well, right now it's the middle of summer and it's been really hot and we are also back at home in the Coromandel which is all beach so I am living in my togs, wrap skirts, hats and lots of linen.
SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS CARRY WITH YOU? My bag! One of many but at the moment it's both the Orla and Ori in Ochre cotton canvas––the perfect beach bag!
If environmentally conscious labels had deities, Kowtow would be one of the highest. Founded and designed by Gosia Piatek in Wellington,, all the garments are certified by non-profit, internationally recognized organizations committed to the health of the planet and of people. The cotton is organically farmed and GMO-free, as certified by the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International; the inks and dyes used for prints and fabrics are certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard; the manufacturing is done by Social Accountability Accreditation Services-approved factories in India;and, the packaging is certified recyclable by the Forest Stewardship Council. See, we weren’t kidding. Check out our interview with founder Gosia Piatek.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR DESIGN PERSPECTIVE. DOES NEW ZEALAND HAVE AN INFLUENCE? "We’re kind of at the edge of the world here. It’s not like every person on the street is super fashionable. Here, it’s a little bit more underground, and people have less money so you do see some cool street style. We don’t have the big designer stores, such as Gucci, Prada,, so people do put their own take on how to put outfits together which is quite inspiring. It’s a little bit fresher, maybe like some of the smaller periphery towns in America. I feel like there’s a parallel—maybe because we’ve both been settled by the English in the last century." - Gosia Piatek
Janey Evett is the wonderful woman that took care of us while we were in Auckland for New Zealand Fashion Week. She moved from New York to New Zealand about three years ago and has been working with NZFW since. She is a big part of the reason we met our new Kiwi community of emerging designers and indie shop owners, so we thought it was only right for you to meet Janey too.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE NEW ZEALAND STYLE? The kiwis definitely have their own distinctive way of putting an outfit together. They are stereotypically known for wearing so much black, but having lived in NYC for ten years I don't even notice that! In my opinion, the kiwis have perfected the casual, effortless look that is also quite functional. The body-con look is definitely not what comes to mind when describing their style but rather more of a layered, drapey and often-times oversized look.
WHAT MAKES NEW ZEALAND FASHION WEEK SPECIAL TO YOU? There are so many incredibly talented and quite undiscovered (in the rest of the world) designers here, and I love being able to work closely with these designers as well our International delegates and make those invaluable introductions. The ultimate reward is seeing a NZ label get picked up by one our NZFW International Delegates - Garmentory is a perfect example of this!
HOW DOES THE ENERGY AND ATMOSPHERE DIFFER FROM OTHER FASHION WEEKS? Due to the size and scale, it is truly a boutique fashion week. There is a huge emphasis on networking as everyone isn't rushing away from show to show so much but rather spending some time hanging around at the venue and socializing. Because our venue is in the viaduct right on the waterfront, most people are happy to make it their base and stick around for a bit! It really does feel like a tight-knit community that becomes even stronger over the course of the week, and it is the one time of the year that the entire industry is essentially in one place so it is all very exciting and almost feels like a massive reunion! It is also quite special that we bring over international delegates as this gives us a wonderful chance to introduce these guests to the NZ designers and of course also gives them the opportunity to experience stunning NZ and hopefully come back again!
Let's see what we can do about that.