NZFW: New kids on the block

By Zoe Walker

Established names form the backbone of the industry, but it's the fresh new faces who keep it moving forward. We talk to the designers behind four new labels holding their first solo shows at NZ Fashion Week.

Designers from left: Deryn Schmidt; Vicki Taylor; Sara Aspinall and Lizzie Turner. Photos / Babiche Martens/Supplied
Designers from left: Deryn Schmidt; Vicki Taylor; Sara Aspinall and Lizzie Turner. Photos / Babiche Martens/Supplied

COMPANY OF STRANGERS

Who are you? Sara Aspinall of Company of Strangers.

Where are you based? Dunedin.

How old are you? 34.

How old is your label? Launched in 2008.

Describe your label in five words:
Leather, metal, fabric all over.

Why a solo show, and why this year?
I wanted to show last year, but was crazy and pregnant. Now I'm even crazier, but with a 4-month old baby. So why not throw another challenge into the mix? I just see our brand as having too strong an identity to be in a group show for our first Fashion Week. We make such large collections anyway, that we could easily do the 25 looks for the solo contemporary salon show.

What's in store for autumn/winter 2013 - what inspired you?
Keith Haring was the starting point , his pop clashing colours, public works, his movement of art for the people for the masses. He lurked in circles with such a wide variety of people and they influenced his art.

Where is your studio, and what is it like?
White walls, the biggest blackboard you will ever see, for all our notes, to-do lists, orders, very messy carpet with threads, cuttings and leather all over the floor; a big mood board takes up another wall, with a different picture of Johnny Depp each season. Our desks are made of doors, a jewellery cabinet is a window that's used to divide the studio. Lots of my friends' art on the walls.

Does your environment influence your design?
Being in Dunedin means we're totally un-influenced by what anyone else is doing. It's always associated with black, but we dream of summer all year round so our collections always have lots of colour. Isolation is good for me, I can be absorbed and not distracted by others.

Who or what are your greatest influences?
Contemporary art mostly, from the 1950s up, that is what speaks the loudest to me. The crazy lives of the artists I find inspiring also, I imagine what they got up to and go off on a tangent.

What is the first thing that you ever designed or created?
Apart from the pencil case at Intermediate? A chartreuse green bustier from a T-shirt in my Madonna days as a child. Although I had no bust, so never wore it.

What did you do before launching your label?
I worked for Margi Robertson at Nom*D, the best education in fashion you could have. Did some time in retail which was great also, hearing women complaining about bits of their bodies they hate, it rings in my ears when we are making the ranges.

What next?
I want to export into Asia. There is great potential for us there and we have had interest in the past but, until now, didn't have the resources to follow the leads. We have started another label, Strangelove, which launched into stores this summer; we want to develop its identity further and expand its availability.

RIDDLE ME THIS

Who are you? Lizzie Turner of Riddle Me This.

Where are you based? Mt Maunganui.

How old are you? 23.

How old is your label? Launched in 2009.

Have you shown at NZFW before?
I was a designer in the New Generation Show in 2010, and it was an amazing experience. I learned a lot about how shows work and ways I could better my own work. I'm grateful for that experience before doing my own solo show.

Why a solo show, and why this year?
My designs this winter were stronger, plus we have our own custom print this season so it seemed right.

What do you hope to get out of showing at NZFW?
Greater public awareness. When I showed in 2010 I noticed a huge increase in awareness, so would be great to get similar response. Also would love to pick up some international stockists.

What's in store for autumn/winter 2013 - what inspired you this season?
I was really inspired by creation and the different theories of beliefs people have around it. I wanted to explore the possibilities of different belief systems working together i.e. the relevance of science and religion. I think it's an interesting topic and I have communicated that through a few different avenues in the collection.

Where is your studio, and what is it like?
Below my house. Right now, it is a mess. But in a good way. There are exciting things happening and sometimes you just have to keep going, no stopping for a tidy just yet.

Does your environment influence your design?
I think my friends definitely have an influence on my design so in that case my environment does affect my design. I love designing for creative young women so they fit into my demographic perfectly. Mt Maunganui is a relaxed beach town, so that vibe always has an effect on my designs too, especially my summer collections. As a whole, when I'm designing I'm thinking about New Zealand though and the different climates we have across the country and what I can do to cater to each area.

What is the first thing that you ever designed or created?
It was a Sylvester the Cat cushion cover in year eight. It got the ball rolling, I realised I could sew clothes if I could sew a cushion cover.

What next?
I'm launching a new brand called Arc & Bow. It is a concentrated basics brand in bold fabrics. And nothing retails for more than $150, so I'm really excited about that.

TAYLOR

Who are you? Vicki Taylor of Taylor.

Where are you based? Auckland.

How old is your label? Launched in 1999.

Describe your label in five words:
Creative, twists on simplicity, tangible.

Have you shown at NZFW before?
I showed last year in the Merino Group show. It was a fabulous experience and a wonderful chance to showcase New Zealand merino. We had to produce only 10 outfits, which was a manageable number to create without turning our business inside out. I have not been part of fashion week previously for several reasons: I normally buy my winter fabrications on the European seasons and the Premiere Vision fabric show has previously clashed time-wise with NZFW. So while I am buying for my next collection I can't have it finished and complete and on the catwalk all at the same time. I have also never wholesaled my Taylor label. I am a vertical operation so I sell directly into my own stores, which is why it was never worth my while to show at NZFW as buyers couldn't buy my label.

Why a solo show, and why this year?
You could say I'm back this year as it was such a fabulous experience last year. It's very rare in today's commercial world where as a designer you get to create an environment that is solely about an image you want to portray. So when the opportunity came I just had to take it and try and see if I can do a whole show on my own. Making 30 outfits is a totally different demand on my business, but it is creative and fun. I have teamed with some very clever and talented people, which in itself is just refreshing. So much about business in the last few years has become very serious with everyone pushing each other as hard as they can, to make everything viable. This is about giving back to our customers, the ones who have supported me for many years, and giving them a unique experience and a memory they can have forever.

Who or what are your greatest influences?
I have created some amazing relationships with overseas textile mills, so my fabrications are often a huge influence on what I do. I see a fabric and just know I want to see a trouser or a dress in it. For me getting a box of fabric swatches from an overseas mill is like a child being handed a box of sweets. I let the fabrics lead and do the work, and my patterning comes after that. I enjoy taking simple geometrics and elongated shapes and turning them into garments that curve and fold around the body. Often my garments can look quite unusual on a coat hanger but do try them on as they need a three dimensional object inside to appreciate them. I spend a lot of time in my retail stores and I enjoy listening to what women want to wear, then I go about trying to expand their boundaries.

What is the first thing that you ever designed or created?
The first real design project that I created and executed would have been in my second to last year of high school. I designed and worked with a uniform company to create a new school uniform we could wear in our final year.

What next?
We are having a busy year. Our new website with an updated online store will launch about the same week as NZFW. Then towards the end of the year we are opening a new Taylor store in the Britomart pavilions.

DERYN SCHMIDT

Who are you? Deryn Schmidt.

Based: Wellington.

How old are you? 33.

How old is your label? Launched in 2010.

Describe your label in five words:
Tailored. Feminine. Flattering. Quality. Investment.

Where is your studio, and what is it like?
We work from home and have converted our garage into the workroom. To say it is cramped would be an understatement, with racks of clothes and rolls of fabrics in most rooms of our little house, but we make it work. It has been ideal for us to be based from home with such a young family; we have a daughter aged 3 1/2 years and son just 4 months old.

Does your environment influence your design?
My surroundings definitely have a significant influence on my collections. I can be inspired by people I see on the street, or a style of architecture, with life experiences always being a strong point of reference. Living in Wellington we definitely do get the extremes of all weather conditions and the full range of seasons, sometimes all in one day, which influences the array of styles I produce to cater for all eventualities.

What was the first thing that you designed or created?
That would be a Zonta project in my 5th form sewing class, where I designed, produced and even modelled a green, tailored suit with crimson godets and a floral blouse. I won first prize and it makes me laugh just thinking about it.

What did you do before launching your label?
After graduating from Wanganui Polytechnic with a Bachelor of Fashion & Textiles I invested over a decade working my way up the ranks, from sewing on buttons to cutting, pattern-making, through to managing production. I have worked for a number of designers, the likes of Karen Millen in the UK, Helen Cherry and Andrea Moore here in NZ.

Have you shown at NZFW before?
Last year was our runway debut at NZFW as part of the New Generation group of designers. It was a fantastic experience and ran as smoothly as I could have wished for. I have been involved with shows in the past for previous employers, so I had a good idea of what to expect as well as the large amount of preparation required. I was fortunate to have an incredible line-up of industry professionals behind me, with strong mentoring and support from the NZFW team helping to make the process that much easier. The decision to participate in NZFW was always about raising the awareness of the Deryn Schmidt label, however the resulting attention and positive recognition from both local and international industry experts has well exceeded all my expectations. A number of doors opened as a direct result of our involvement, resulting in a couple of additional local stockists and even the opportunity to meet with a major international buyer. The most difficult thing about last year's Fashion Week was that I was newly pregnant and suffering from morning sickness, which did make everything that bit more challenging.

- NZ Herald

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