It's the season of the fashion comeback, with three local names returning to the fold.
Fashion is all about the comeback. From label relaunches to recycled trends, to that timeless maxim that "black is back", there's nothing that fashion loves more than something old as something new. Look at the endless fascination with nostalgia; designers referencing fashions of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s or 1970s (one of them is always making some kind of comeback).
See Tom Ford, who parted ways with Gucci in 2004 but announced his fashion comeback the following year with the launch of a namesake brand that encompassed menswear, fragrance and eyewear (he launched a womenswear line last year to much fanfare). See the label Imitation of Christ, which relaunched at New York Fashion Week recently, with an actual wedding on the runway, after closing in 2007. See Kate Moss, who famously made a strong career comeback after her cocaine scandal in 2005. And see the list of vintage labels thought to be languishing in fashion history, resurrected by new owners; an idea that has had varying levels of success - sixties British brand Ossie Clark, relaunched in 2008, and re-closed in 2009; Halston, relaunched in 2008 and is still hanging on, despite various owners and creative directors; Vionnet, revived briefly in 2006, and again with a new owner in 2009; and Biba, the swinging sixties label that closed in 1975 before being resurrected several times, to the horror of its original owner Barbara Hulanicki, including most recently in 2009.
So why the interest in comebacks? Talent, mostly, in terms of designer comebacks, but fashion also loves to forgive and forget past mistakes (or financial headaches). Reviving dormant brands is also often about playing on consumers' sense of nostalgia and loyalty - an idea that the owners behind just relaunched local label Sabine will be hoping will entice past fans of the label into buying into its new collection.
Originally owned by Angela Todd, Sabine launched in 2000 with two Auckland boutiques which closed their doors in 2009. The brand is now being relaunched - with Todd's blessing - by Atlantic Apparel (also behind the relaunch of Principals, and who are planning on relaunching plus-size clothing store Precious Vessels next year). They have put in place a new creative director, Venecia Martin, updated the logo, and will release the new Sabine into Farmers stores nationwide in November. It's a relatively unexpected relaunch of a brand focused mainly on Ponsonby and Newmarket (where their two boutiques were), but design manager Gina Hufton says she has been pleasantly surprised at the number of people who remember Sabine. It's that brand awareness that is key to relaunching new brands, and Hufton believes it will get a new type of fashion shopper into Farmers.
The first bird-inspired collection will arrive into 15 selected stores around the country in November, and is a relative continuation of the brand's original feminine, wearable signature - pieces that range from the day to evening, like a fluttery pleated dress, cut-out shoulder detailing, tiered ruffles on a flirty party frock and exclusive prints. Prices range from $59.99 to $139.99, making it more of a boutique range for Farmers customers, but relatively affordable for fashion shoppers.
Like the Sabine label, designer Kylee Davis is another local fashion survivor, with the launch of a new namesake knitwear label which has secured an order with prestigious high-end British boutique Browns. Davis could well be the local queen of the fashion comeback, with two so far to her name. Davis launched Insidious Fix in 1995, a knitwear label that came to an abrupt end in 2005 when the label's co-founder Jason Crawford was arrested on charges of cannabis cultivation (charges unrelated to Davis). A year later in 2006, she announced her first comeback with the launch of Stitch Ministry in partnership with Jason Gitmans of Gitmans Knitwear. That shut down late last year, with Davis hinting then that she'd be back - and now she is. Her new Kylee Davis brand will have a focus on quality and luxury craftmanship, with wovens in interesting silhouettes, unexpected colours and standout macrame detailing (we're not so impressed by the possum fur stole with the name Happy and Bleeding). The first collection, Armour & Rebelle, is "inspired by both the sense of new-found freedom that follows a time of restriction and the opportunity to again express oneself without conforming to the usual codes"; a reflection of her new venture perhaps?
In an email sent to supporters of her previous labels last week, Davis explained the new label would be handcrafted in New Zealand using the finest yarns including alpaca, kid mohair, merino, possum, and mercerised cotton. "I work closely with a number of local knitters, weavers and others in the industry to ensure each garment is of the highest quality," she wrote. "Many work from their own home studio and are the last of a dying breed keeping many skills alive. It is an exclusive range considering most styles are released in very limited numbers, often less than five." Unlike her previous labels, her limited edition pieces won't be held in stores - in keeping with the boutique approach of the label, Davis will hold private sales sessions of up to 20 people, "allowing me to maintain a more personal approach with my customers".
Another local fashionable return is former Obi designer Mary-Ellen Prendergast, who is launching new label Shen for autumn/winter 2012 - a collection dubbed Forever Lasting that focuses on interesting silhouettes, textures and tailoring.
There are many more fashion comebacks we'd like to see - the relaunch of local labels Mala Brajkovic and Marilyn Sainty would be top of our list, as would the return of British designer Luella Bartley whose label closed in 2009. But the next fashion resurrection we predict we'll be seeing? The return of disgraced Christian Dior designer John Galliano. Though he'll never return to Dior, people will eventually forgive - because ultimately, fashion loves a comeback.