Fashion Week Blog: It's all about clothes

By Rosie Dawson-Hewes

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Our on-the-ground New Zealand Fashion Week reporter, Rosie Dawson-Hewes, is back. But this year she's better prepared, with more invites, more food and a pair of flats in her bag…


 


September 7, 10.24pm: Taylor showed for the first time at fashion week yesterday and, like a few other designers, took a slightly more business-like approach to the opportunity. Instead of showing a winter collection, which their largely customer-based audience have to wait six to eight months to buy, Taylor showed a bridging collection that will be released in store in December. It was a capsule range that connects the summer range that is in stores now with their yet-to-be released winter 2013 range. Made up of sharp tailoring and beautiful draping, the range was certainly memorable. With long, cutaway jackets and beauitful chiffon layering pieces in black, cream and canary yellow, it was extremely commercial and will appeal to a wide audience. The styling was also some of the strongest we've seen all week, with every model wearing a wide black headbands on, with long samurai-like plaits sprouting from the top. It was extremely effective in making every model look the same, so the focus was purely on the clothes, as it should be.


The Miromoda show this afternoon was the last onsite show for the year and an interesting way to tie up the week. With a couple of collections that felt they would be better suited to a wearable arts show, there were definitely a couple of standouts. Wellington swimwear label Surface Too Deep showed a beautiful range of flattering bikinis and one-piece suits in great prints. I particularly loved the high-waisted bottoms and wide straps, which are so often hard to find in bikinis and yet are so mich kinder to the large proportion of the population. The other standout for me was Pia Boutique, which showed a great range of strong, graphic prints on flirty dresses and fun pants. The prints had a geometric, kaleidoscope quality which was refreshing and bold.


Huffer closed out the week with a massive party in the Mackenzies development in Takapuna. Mexican was the theme of the night, and El Summer was the range being launched. Held in a wide open industrial space next to their new store, it was an exhibition/installation to celebrate 15 years in business. There was sangria, margueritas and tequila at the bar and delicious food provided by Mexico to keep the crowds happy. The models walked a roped-off runway, complemented by Mark 'The Cobrasnake' Hunter's photos. Unfortunately as the runway wasn't raised, very few people could actually see the show, however it was a great, relaxed way to finish off a busy week of hard work.


September 6, 11.01pm: After a reasonably slow start, this afternoon seemed to fly by in a whirlwind!


Mount Maunganui brand Blak showed a slick, cohesive collection that told a wonderful story. With a custom over-sized rose and stripe print and splashes of leather, it was all clean lines and beautiful tailoring. Designer Teresa Hodges has a real knack for creating simple, pared-back statement pieces that stand well on their own. The collection featured cobalt blue, charcoal, black and cream, with pops of peach and red. There was a lovely attention to detail, with white tipped black shirt collars, polo neck bodysuits with wee collars and dresses with keyholes in the back or sides. Aside from the beautiful custom print, there was also a lovely red printed rose detail on black sweaters and tee-shirts. The styling was strong also, with cute wee black diamante headbands constructed from criss-crossed custom bobby pins and strong, dark eyes. It was a refreshingly well-edited, clean and cohesive show.


Australian brand Charlie Brown is the only international label showing at NZFW this week. The celebrities came out in force, peering down the runway as 49 different looks sashayed past them. From blinged-out jackets and camo skinny pants (described as military luxe) to leopard-print velvet and oriental gowns, it was certainly a show with plenty to look at. There was a slightly flapper vibe to one section, with exquisite beaded gowns in both knee and floor-length. There was plenty of sequins for the magpies among us, including an amazing pair of sequinned leggings. The styling was fairly pared-back, though there were great spiked and beaded headpieces.


The standout moment of the show actually had nothing to do with the clothes. At the end of the show, as the models all traipsed backstage, the last model struggled to walk in her heels as her ankles gave way. As she stumbled, Auckland mayor Len Brown leapt forward from his seat to help her up, where she then removed her shoes, waved to the cheering crowd and left the runway. It was a nice reminder that underneath the glamour, NZFW has a lovely, caring spirit.


 Last up this evening was Stolen Girlfriends Club's offsite show at an underground carpark in Ponsonby. I really like that SGC bring a grungey, industrial vibe to fashion week as it provides a nice balance to the fashion force. Industrial setting and crowd of 1000 aside, SGC really impressed this evening. Their collection, titled Dead End, was a huge step up from last year, featuring crisp fitted dresses and neon yellow for the ladies, and cute printed shirts and deconstructed denim for the lads. There were great skinny pants, skater dresses and bomber jackets as well as thick beige woollen pieces accented with black patent leather. The muted reptilian camo print was one of the best we've seen all week. There were also pops of neon yellow, mesh and a recurring snake print to round it all out.


I think SGC really stepped up the glam factor (and finishing) for womenswear this year and their collection will appeal to a much wider audience because of it. Yes, it still has that awesome bad-ass SGC attitude, but it will be possible to tone it down if needed. For example, there was a simple tunic dress in the camo print which would not look out of place in the office paired with a blazer and heels.


One of the other things I enjoyed about this evening, other than the awesome buzz that is always created by the large crowd of SGC-lovers, is that they also produce simple accessories, such as caps. In times like these, when not everyone has a lot of money to spend on clothes, it's really lovely to see brands creating low-cost entry level pieces that make their brand more accessible. But then the boys behind Stolen Girlfriends Club have always been canny business and marketing men! This collection was no different.


September 6, 3.36pm: Today had a thankfully later start of 12.30pm, with a strong collection from ex-Hawkes Bay label Salasai. This was a great show with an gentle, farmhouse vibe, a relaxed soundtrack and models with ears of wheat in their pockets, purses and hair. The whole collection had a delightfully carefree, slouched feel, with double-breasted linen suiting, a deconstructed chevron print (in denim blue, soft burgundy, tan and black) and beautiful burgundy leather interspersed with pops of lemon yellow in the womenswear.


There were two chunky knit sweaters with contrast sleeves which looked perfect for curling up in on a cold winter's day. There was also a standout pair of burgundy leather pants with quilted knees and a motorcycle jacket with contrast sleeves. While we've seen a lot of leather this week, the colour really made it seem softer and more feminine.


The finishing and tailoring in this range was really spot-on. Every seam was perfectly pressed and presented. It made dressing for winter seem easy and comfortable. If this is what results from designer Kirsha Whitcher relocating to Perth, then I think the move was well worthwhile.


September 6, 7.27am: Phew. We've made it through the two biggest days of the week and are now more than halfway through the shows.


Mount Maunganui-based label Riddle Me This so a creative, experimental collection, inspired by the Big Bang and various creation stories. It featured velvet tartan, a slightly neo-Aztec print, houndstooth and mesh. It was definitely a streetwear range that was cohesive and told a good story. The collection as a whole made sense, which was refreshing. It could perhaps have used a little stronger editing, however for a debut show it was a great start. Standout for me was the mixed top and pants in a fine and large houndstooth print. It was a great, simple play on print-mixing.


Yesterday afternoon Andrea Moore showed an equestrian-inspired collection that I really loved. Every season I see her work, I love it that little bit more. Admittedly, it appeals to my aesthetic perfectly and that's why, but still. She always creates beautifully tailored, feminine garments that are equal parts bold and fun. She's not afraid to use colour and yesterday's show was no different.


The show opened to the sound of horses galloping as the models stomped out onto the runway. With high ponytails threaded through military-like hats, the styling was some of the strongest we've seen while still allowing the clothes to be the primary focus. A palette of navy, red, emerald, dusty pink, aubergine, lavender, charcoal and the colours du jour, burnt orange and cobalt meant it certainly was an eye-popping show. An adorable horse print that featured on suits, shirts and jeans was mixed in with chevrons, florals and spots, all broken up with bold block colours. Fabrics included silk, wool, velvet, leather panelling and possum fur.


 


The collection was a natural extension of her summer 2012 range, with some of her popular garments (including the Lounging pant, Tree Skinnies and Midnight trench) shown in new colourways. There were Moore's trademark tailored wool coats, in a variety of colours, including standard black and walnut. The fit of her jackets, blazers and coats was, as always, impeccable.


Moore really knows how to design for women who want great tailored pieces that are fun to wear and have a quirky edge. Standouts for me included a cropped woollen jacket with possum fur sleeves, a beautiful red cape and the horse print, but really, I'll take one of everything!


Trelise Cooper sure knows how to put on a show and play to her  crowd and last night's full house was no different. Her Cooper collection showed first, opening with a giant arch of gold foil helium balloons. It was a riot of colour, texture and print - I counted 14 different prints in this section alone. As always with Trelise, it was a case of more is more, with coats belted over dresses worn over pants. There were frills and peplums aplenty, with acidic digital floral prints and bold blue and yellow stripes.


Next up was a reasonably austere Trelise Cooper collection. The balloons disappeared to reveal a giant, wrought-iron looking, art nouveau gateway covered in sparkling fairy lights. The collection was inspired by new technology, including social media platforms Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The collection had a fairly muted palette, started out with clean black and white lines and eventually moving into pink and orange with gold accents. She finished by turning off the lights and sending out girls in dresses that were lit up in various colours. The crowd loved it.


Day two wrapped up with the Kagi jewellery showcase, which was one part theatre, one part burlesque and one part fashion show. Every part entertained. Titled Birds of Paradise, the show and collection were inspired by native New Zealand birds. Produced in collaboration with theatre director Morag Brownlie, each section was introduced by 'David Attenborough' and the performers were dripping with jewels. The show included song, dance, stilt-walkers and had a burlesque, frisky element to it. The highlight for me was the Tui stilt-walkers who wore layers of black jewels around their necks, punctuated by a large cluster of pearls acting as the Tui's white neck feathers. It was a really entertaining way to finish the day and an innovative way to showcase the jewellery on offer.


September 5, 4.24pm: Twentyseven names and Ingrid Starnes joined forces to show at Australis House in Britomart this morning.


Slick as ever, their PR company Showroom 22 coaxed tired media and buyers out of bed early with promises of breakfast and coffee. It clearly worked as a capacity crowd turned up and the buzz ahead of the shows was palpable.


Wellington label twentyseven names opened proceedings with a collection that managed to be both sexy and super-cute, all at once. Styled by Dan Awha with knit beanies, printed socks and jelly sandals, designers Anjali Stewart and Rachel Easting have nailed an effortlessly cute and feminine look.


 


 


Combining spots of all sizes with strawberry and heart prints, and a little stripe thrown in for good measure, they showed a great range of cute dresses, knit sweaters, buttoned-up blouses and adorable shorts. I particularly liked the pops of red accentuating the palette of mostly pastels, greys, powder blue and cream. And of course the trademark printed bowties to finish it off. Twentyseven names have a real strength for capturing that youthful, easily put-together girl who looks adorable in anything she puts on and this collection was no different.


 


Ingrid Starnes showed a much more mature collection, that was simple, but beautifully executed and extremely feminine. Inspired by a hunt, there was plenty to like. With tweed pants and jackets, luxe wool overcoats, silk blouses and dresses and cute knotted rope brooches, it was classy and elegant. The collection used a playful, almost-geometric print on both a pale blue and a mustard base. Most of the other colours featured pulled from this print, with forest green and burnt orange accentuating creams, camel, grey and gold. All in all, it was trademark Starnes - simple, elegant, feminine and flattering.


The New Generation show showcased four new talents - Dmonic Intent, Silence Was..., Daniel K and Arielle Mermin. Dmonic Intent showed a strong, sculptural collection, that was slightly avant garde at times. With bold use of a geometric print in yellow and burnt orange, sculptured shoulders and a lattice-work weaving, I was impressed. It had a definitive direction and didn't apologise for pushing the boundaries. There was a bandage dress that was particularly striking and very definitely editorial over commercial. Their collection would photograph extremely well and I imagine they have many an editorial shoot ahead of them.


Silence Was... showed a simple winter line, that used charcoal and bright orange check, shearling, velvet and fur. With clean lines and simple tailoring, it was winter at its easiest. Daniel K showed more clean lines, with geometric cut-out hemlines and panelling. There was a mix of fitted jackets and draped blouses and dresses. It was a very commercial collection with dark colours contrasted with pops of bright red detailing.


Mount Maunganui-based designer Arielle Mermin showed a very 70s-inspired range that had a cool, Californian ease to it. With great velvet and corduroy suiting and silk printed blouses, it was simple, but memorable. There were a couple of beautifully fitted tunic dresses that were extremely flattering and easy to wear. Again, it had a very strong direction that was well-edited and made sense. All in all, a great debut.


Wellington designer Deryn Schmidt debuted in the New Generation show last year and came back for her first solo show this afternoon. With exceptionally strong tailoring and beautiful classic shapes, it was a collection to covet. Many of the pieces were so timeless they would comfortably slot into any woman's wardrobe, of any age. With impeccable, structured woollen suits, strong silhouettes and bold colour choice, Schmidt put together a very strong show indeed. She trained under Andrea Moore and Helen Cherry, and the years of hard work learning the ropes really showed. The finishing was exquisite and there was a classic elegance to it all. She showed printed silk pants and matching blouses, along with a great range of warm woollen overcoats and velvet blazers. For a debut solo show I think Schmidt and her team can be very proud of what they've achieved.


 


September 4, 10.47pm: The final three shows of the day all ran late, but certainly ended the first full day on a good note. Hailwood showed a collection that seemed to be of two halves. One part lady-like dresses and cinched waists, the other knit dresses and cosy sweaters with a distinctly casual vibe.


There was an easy elegance to much of Hailwood's show. As for the more casual garments, I loved the leather elbow patches on the sweaters and cardigan. The sweaters had an awesome greco-roman horse motif, which was also used as a recurring print on skirts and a full-length dress.


 


 


Hailwood also used leather as a feature (in pants, sleeves and bags), along with quilted jackets that gave a good sense of winter (something occasionally missing from these shows!). There were also really simple, but panelled, knit dresses which will be very popular for their effortless style, as will his collaboration shoes with Mi Piaci of course. They used the 5th Avenue heel on the runway and it looked great.


Juliette Hogan was next up and showed a fresh collection, packed with punch. I think Hogan has really developed a great sense of her aesthetic and where her strengths are in recent collections and that shows as each collection seems to get better and better. Autumn/winter next year will feature dark orange lace and wool, sand-coloured suiting, bright florals and sequins. Hogan has a great sense of prints and texture and uses them well. She showed a great floral suit, quilted jacket and an amazing black fur jacket, that looked extremely sumptuous - just as winter should be. The collection had a very lady-like sensibility, without being dowdy or dated. It was crisp, modern and feminine. All in all, it was a cohesive, well-thought-out collection that really impressed.


Zambesi. Ahhh Zambesi. I think from now on I will refer to them as Zambesi, masters of fashion week. They were one of my personal stand-outs last year and it would seem this year will be no different. The thing I really love about Zambesi is that Liz and Neville Findlay have their aesthetic and silhouette and they stick to it. They don't care what anyone else is doing, they just do what they're good at. And boy are they good! Their finishing is impeccable, their tailoring superb. They featured quirky details, such as over-sized domes and PVC stoles. Next winter's collection felt like a very natural continuation of last winter, with skinny pants in various fabrics, beautiful woollen boxy coats and removable collars. There was the Zambesi's trademark sequins, along with a surprising yellow and black check that only Zambesi could make work. They really did make it work though! There was also a smoking hot pair of pink check pants. Their collection was so mesmerising I kept forgetting to take notes, so taken was I with the finishing on each garment and the sheer awesomeness of the entire collection. They have set the bar extremely high for all the other shows yet to come. Yes, Zambesi definitely are masters of fashion week.


 


  September 4, 4.45pm: Liam opened fashion week with a sophisticated, pared-back collection of wearable tailored pieces suitable for the office, along with beautifully fit sand-washed silk formal dresses. Highlights for me included effortless silk blouses and their trademark pantsuits. They also had tan leather and chain braces paired with skinny belts and a sleeveless tailored vest that brought a really masculine edge to an otherwise feminine collection.


I'm starting to think the Ruby girl doesn't believe in winter. They showed a very pale colour palette, lots of white with prints and pale peach, broken up with turquoise fur, stripes and metallic silver. There was a beautiful peach animal print used for both tops and pants, which I imagine will sell well. Again, there were a couple of great full-length formal dresses, but all with Ruby's signature sense of fun, styled with silver loafers and knit beanies.


Cybele's 21st collection was slick and featured her signature dark prints and floating silhouettes. She paired wide, clear PVC belts with tailored black dresses and gorgeous bags. There were a couple of stand-out prints for me - a bright blue inkblot-like print on the hem of a long, sheer dress, and the owl print, which had big eyes and was super-cute, but with just a hint of rock n roll.


 


 


Early on in the collection there was a beautifully draped charcoal cardigan that left me longing for winter! All in all, Cybele has me convinced that her draped, chiffon, printed tunics are the ideal dress and that every woman should have at least one Cybele piece.


Coop, while not techinically designed by Trelise Cooper, showed a collection that very clearly had Cooper's fingerprints all over it. Aimed at a younger market, it featured an amped-up garden print, giant peplums and, of course, plenty of sequins and beading. The collection was quite large and felt slightly disjointed in that there didn't seem to be any continuity of fabric choice, colour, or even garments. Some pieces were very wearable, in particular a cute, brocade-like bomber jacket, while others were not quite as commercial.


My highlight so far has to be the debut collection of Dunedin's Company of Strangers. It was a beautifully crafted and edited collection that showcased designer Sara Aspinall's eye for detail, skill in tailoring and ability to introduce colour in such a way that even the darkest wardrobe would be tempted. With plenty of panelling, both leather and chiffon, and sharp tailoring, it won me over in a heartbeat. There were beautifully finished cropped woollen motorcycle jackets in several colours, including fuschia, peach and black. I would like one of each! The zip detailing was perfection. Aspinall started out designing jewellery and bags, and those skills were evident here. There was a really cute yellow, leather backpack as well.  It was definitely a very strong debut show and firmly places Company of Strangers as 'one to watch'.


 


Next up is Hailwood, Juliette Hogan and Zambesi, which pretty much guarantees the first full day of NZFW will finish on a high note.


September 4, 7.04am: Despite the rumours, rain and talk of rebellious designers showing in-season collections offsite in Ponsonby last week, New Zealand Fashion Week 2012 officially opened last night, with a fairly low-key party at the Viaduct Events Centre. NZFW director Pieter Stewart, Auckland mayor Len Brown and designer Trelise Cooper all spoke.


It was definitely a pared-back event compared to previous years, however the highlight had to be the group of Kiwi Olympians that turned up. Between the rowers and the various models floating around, it was a very tall room of people. I had 12cm heels on and still barely reached Mahe Drysdale's shoulder!


 


Parties and parking tickets aside ($65 for being 10 minutes late, ouch!), the hard work of fashion week really starts today, when sister labels Ruby and Liam open with their Autumn/Winter 2013 collection at noon. Their offsite show last year was one of the best of the week, so I can't wait to see what they come up with this year.


Today's line-up of eight shows includes some of my most-anticipated, with Cybele returning to show her 21st collection (she didn't show last year as she'd just had a baby) along with Hailwood, Julilette Hogan and Zambesi. I love pretty much everything Zambesi do (it appeals to my dark, Wellingtonian aesthetic) so am very excited to see what they show today. I'll be updating twice a day with all the details from the shows. Bring on the madness!

- Hamilton News

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