Fashion plate: Naomi McCleary

By Cathrin Schaer

It's an abiding passion for New Zealand design that impacts on Naomi McCleary's fashion decisions.

The self-confessed Westie - she's been living in Titirangi and Oratia for around 30 years now - is the arts manager for the Waitakere City Council and says she believes "in the concept of a creative city, a place where the arts and artists are honoured and are invited to contribute to creating a beautiful place to be".

Which is why she will "always choose New Zealand-created above all else. My arts world focus gives me a passion for local artists and designers and I know they are among the best in the world."

McCleary was spotted for this page during a shopping trip - she'd just bought a Cybele dress she plans to wear as a jacket and that might have challenged less stylish women half her age.

Who are your favourite designers?

It's all about fabric quality. I'm drawn to natural fibres and gentle draping. I love the clothes that Miranda Brown creates and I have half a dozen special garments that will survive the vagaries of seasonal fashion. I also buy the Carlson and Kingan Jones labels. And I've just discovered the Earth Company in Westgate. It's an international franchise that brings in pure cotton, silk and hemp gear from China. They guarantee that the work comes from factories that are air-conditioned and where fair wages are paid.

What's your biggest indulgence?

Collecting New Zealand ceramics. It's not exactly a fashion indulgence - but it is a design one. Our ceramic artists are up there with the best in the world. And my real treasures are my Len Castle ceramics, some dating back 30 or 40 years.

Your favourite accessory?

A black, water-hyacinth straw hat. It can be dressed up with a huge scarlet rose or shoved on to garden in.

Best fashion bargain?

Great, funky and roomy bags made from recycled plastic by the Pacific Islands Mamas on the Corban Estate.

What endures throughout the seasons?

Simple garments made from beautiful, natural fibre fabrics.

Your favourite shop?


What is your beauty routine?

Never let soap touch the face. I love the cleanser I'm using now, a light, honey-based one from BeesOnLine. I use only a tinted moisturiser with sun block from Sandenbrook. It's around $30 and is lighter and better than any of the expensive ones I've occasionally tried. I'm deeply cynical about anti-ageing creams.

What can't you live without?

My handbag, whatever it is. It is my security blanket.

Is there anything you'd never wear?

Low riders.

What won't you be wearing this season?

High, strappy sandals - although I secretly lust after them.

What is the biggest fashion mistake you have ever made?

Some of the Dynasty outfits of the 80s look pretty ridiculous now.

Any style icons?

I'm revelling in the focus on Helen Mirren and her wonderfully lived-in face.

Best sartorial advice you ever had?

Never wear white shoes. From my mother and many decades ago.

Best sartorial advice to pass down to your own daughter?

I have two daughters and have loved watching them find their own style. My advice was to find that style and not to be a slave to the latest fashion gimmicks.

Most cherished item?

I have a deep-red velvet evening jacket, designed and hand-printed with lilies by Susan Holmes. It's 60s vintage and it still draws compliments after all these years.

Most overrated item in fashion?

Designer handbags. I just can't imagine spending that much on a "security blanket".

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