"The best fashion show is always on the street. Always has been and always will."
Those are the words of New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham, a pioneer of the street style genre that has very quickly become an integral part of fashion.
From Cunningham's charming snapshots of New York men and women to Garance Dore's wistful showcase of women she admires, to The Sartorialist's dapper gentlemen and Tommy Ton's images of front row fashion week figures, street style has come to define fashion now - celebrating the way "real" people dress and interpret fashion away from the pages of a magazine or the runway.
There are various local incarnations of these style blogs and websites, but one of the slickest showcases the eyes of four stylish Auckland men - called, rather fittingly, Four Eyes.
Launched in April this year by friends Alex Blanco, Chin Tay, Danny Simmons and Mino Kim, Four Eyes showcases some of the best dressed men and women, young and old, around town - and makes you realise how stylish our city is.
Whether it be a great use of layering, a pair of red shoes or chain detailing on a belt, Blanco, Tay, Simmons and Kim focus on outfits and details that catch their eye and demonstrate true style - and because there are four of them, there is a fantastic and eclectic mix of aesthetics.
When the foursome aren't at their "day jobs" - Blanco works in marketing at airline Lufthansa, Tay as a dentist, Simmons as a graphic designer, and Kim at Country Road - they roam the streets of Auckland and beyond (they've also photographed locals in Hong Kong, Barcelona, Sydney and Hawaii), looking for people to photograph.
From today they will also be looking for New Zealand's most stylish man and women, as part of the Kim Crawford Most Stylish Competition in conjunction with Viva. We talked to the stylish foursome and found out more about what they look for when out on the street.
What catches your eye when out on the street?
There's no one thing or style that gets our attention. Bright colours, interesting silhouettes, or when someone's really just let loose and totally committed to a wild look are obviously pretty eye-catching. Usually it's the overall look of a person who has put consideration into what they're wearing. But it could also be anything from an awesome pair of shoes to a cool pair of glasses and anything in between. We love finding people who make us want to turn around when they walk past or people who make us want to stare at them. It's something indescribable that's just a feeling.
Do you think there is a difference between fashion and style?
A person's style is developed through the sum of their life experiences. We consider fashion to be a tool to reflect an individual's style. Fashion changes from season to season, whereas style is timeless. The changing nature of fashion allows people to project their own style in new ways which makes our time on the street really exciting.
How do you shoot - do you go out deliberately to photograph people, or do you always have a camera with you?
Sometimes we go out and deliberately shoot because it's a really exciting thing to do. You never know who you will meet or what amazing things you will find. We do, however, try to have a camera on hand when we go out as you never know what you will see.
What's the general response like when you approach people and ask to take their photo?
Surprisingly good. Generally the responses have been really positive. Most people do take it as a compliment and sometimes you walk away feeling like you've brightened their day. Our excitement about the people we spot usually rubs off on them.
Street style has obviously become massive over the last few years; what do you think it is about it that appeals so much with so many?
Street style is something that everyone can relate to on an everyday level. The people we take photos of are people that you could know, people on their way to work or just shopping on the weekend. People have also told us that they use the blog for their own inspiration when it comes to dressing themselves in the morning, which we find amazing.
When it comes to style, what do you think New Zealanders get right?
New Zealanders have their own flavour and have championed the colour black. We also are generally not caught up with designer labels and a lot of the great looks we find on the streets of Auckland are vintage items that were found at a local op shop or salvaged from a grandmother's closet. We love when there is a story attached to a certain piece of clothing.
And what do they get wrong?
We often play it too safe.
Are you familiar with [New York Times photographer and street style pioneer] Bill Cunningham? Have you seen the documentary on him?
Yes, we think he is amazing. A couple of us have seen the doco and loved it - best movie all year. The thing that struck us most about the movie was the passion that he has for what he does without expecting anything in return - he does what he does because he loves it. His ability to catch that "special moment" from moving subjects every time he takes a shot is a skill that can't be taught.
At international fashion weeks, street style and what those attending are wearing has become almost as important and influential as the runway shows themselves - the likes of Anna Dello Russo and other street style "stars". When I went to Sydney for fashion week , it felt like people were really dressing up and making an effort, partly because Tommy Ton from the style blog Jak and Jil was there. Do you think New Zealanders will become like this, or are we far too humble?
Inherently, New Zealanders are very laid-back and relaxed with everything they do but we are becoming more adventurous and daring with what we wear. All you need to do is look on our streets and you will see it everywhere. If our streets are anything to go by, we are expecting big things from NZFW.
What would you like to see more of on the street?
Alex: I think the streets of Auckland offer a bit of everything. I think our multiculturalism adds an element of variety and surprise but would love to see a more exaggerated and fearless attitude on our streets.
Chin: More variety. Also, I'd like to see people commit more to their style and be more dedicated and considered in their approach to fashion.
Danny: As a blogger it's always fun to see people doing something really outrageous and making a statement with their look. I love seeing more and more people having the confidence to wear the things they'd really like to.
Mino: Having come from overseas only a few years ago, I have come to love New Zealand style. Kiwis are very innovative and I would love to see more experimentation on the streets.
What are your influences?
Danny: I think we're influenced by the little things in life more than we realise. Often it's a stranger on the street or a random scene that catches my attention and sparks an idea or line of thought. I do spend a lot of time trawling through fashion websites and other fashion and street style blogs though ... I'm pretty much a geek in that when I see something I like, I'll spend hours researching every little detail about it.
Chin: Movie scenes, lookbooks, fashion blogs, architecture ... just to name a few.
Alex: For me, variety is the spice of life. Travel has a big influence on my life as it opens up a whole new way of seeing things. I love the "visual overload" aspect of it. Photography is also something I use to draw inspiration from - I love the idea of capturing certain moments that are impossible to describe in words.
Mino: The people I meet influence me a lot. Because I work in retail and am constantly meeting such a variety of people, I love finding out what they think about clothing and fashion. There are so many unique ways of putting an outfit together and I love seeing how different people do it.
Who are your favourite designers?
Danny: Riccardo Tisci - his work at Givenchy is just amazing. I love how he combines such delicacy and intricate detail with a bit of modern grit. Miuccia Prada - she knows fashion is fun. Zambesi - I love the detail and subtlety in all their clothes.
Chin: Chronicles of Never - for the dark and moody aesthetic. Complexgeometries for their silhouettes. Jimmy D for his love of black. World for their use of colour.
Mino: I love Lanvin for its simplicity and element of subtle drama, Vivienne Westwood for her unique, crazy and dramatic way of expressing herself, Dolce & Gabanna for their amazing suits, Jimmy D for his dramatic yet practical and versatile pieces.
Alex: I really like YSL for its tailoring and elegance in menswear, Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig from Marchesa for their stunningly elegant dresses, Alexander McQueen for having always pushed the boundaries and Workshop for its ease and authenticity.
Are you New Zealand's most stylish?
Today Kim Crawford Wines begins its hunt for the most stylish man and woman on the streets of New Zealand. The wine company, which truly believes in celebrating indiviual style, has enlisted Four eyes to get out and about and photograph people they meet on the street who look amazing and exhibit their own sense of style.
Between now and New Zealand Fashion Week, which kicks off on August 29, Kim Crawford's Four eyes crew will post their pictures to facebook.com/kimcrawfordwines. That's where you can join in the play. Simply go to the Facebook page and vote on who you think is the most stylish. Or, if you think you or your friends have what it takes, post your own images and join the competition.
There will be daily prizes for those voted the most stylish and winners will receive prizes including limited edition designer clothing, Viva pamper packs and vouchers to the coolest spots in town.
A special judging panel made up of Kathryn Wilson from Kathryn Wilson Footwear, Steve Dunstan from Huffer and Viva editor Amanda Linnell will face the tough job of choosing the best of the best.
Kim Crawford Wines Most Stylish Woman and Man will be announced in Viva on August 31. The winners will each receive $1000 worth of designer clothing, plus a VIP Fashion Week experience.