NZ Fashion Week day two: It's all about the clothes

By Rosie Dawson-Hewes

Dunedin designer Sara Aspinall debuted a strong first collection under her label Company of Strangers. Photo / APN
Dunedin designer Sara Aspinall debuted a strong first collection under her label Company of Strangers. Photo / APN

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.

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 the Findlays 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.

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