Just over three months ago, my dear friend and designer, Shiana Weir, sent me an excited message saying she'd been given the chance to show at the first Wellington Fashion Week and that she'd be taking three months' unpaid leave from her day job in IT procurement to design and produce the first full collection for her label, Mardle.
(Prior to this Mardle had only ever produced mini collections and individual project pieces.)
Excited squeals of delight aside, Shiana asked if I would be willing to be her sounding board throughout the process, to which I said yes (of course). As a long-time lover and collector of all things fashion, and with a complete inability to draw even a stick figure,
I knew this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I'd be silly to pass up. It would give me an inside eye on what it takes to get a collection of garments from ideas in the designer's mind to physical items worn by Amazonian models stomping down a runway.
It would be my chance to get as close as possible to being a designer without heading back to uni for four years.
In hindsight, going back to uni would have been a huge help. The last three months have been a very big learning curve for me.
From the difference between chiffon and georgette silk to the length zip required to get into a jumpsuit without liquifying one's bones like a Harry Potter spell gone wrong, I have learnt a lot so far.
And I imagine I'm going to learn even more in the coming days. You see, Mardle's collection debuts in a group show at Massey's Grand Hall in Wellington tomorrow night.
So what has it been like to get to this point? It started with many emails and Skype calls about the collection itself. Shiana had put together a collection plan, which involved ear-marking types of pieces to make up the collection (ie jacket, jumpsuit, long dress etc) and had started designing some of the pieces.
As any good sounding board, I gave her my honest opinion about what I thought would work and wouldn't. There were some tweaks made to fit, hem lengths and fabric ideas.
A couple of designs were discarded and a few new ones born. All the while Shiana kept working away at the beginnings of patterns and laid the foundation work for the collection.
Soon after that we met up in Auckland for three days of shopping. Well, I say shopping, but it was actually trawling wholesale fabric suppliers looking for the right prints, cottons, silks and modal blends to make Shiana's designs come to life.
Not only was it super-fun (like shopping with someone else's credit card) but it was also super-productive.
Shiana's designs are often inspired or influenced by her fabric choices, so we were delighted to find several fabrics that were exactly what we had in mind, along with a couple that inspired changes to key pieces in the collection, taking them to a whole new level.
On our first day we got caught out walking in a typical Auckland torrential downpour. Turns out, what looks like a short walk on Google maps took about 45 minutes. Rookie mistake.
We turned up to the belts and accessories wholesaler dripping wet. Literally. The lovely woman there had to give us tea towels to dry ourselves off with so we didn't leave puddles on her showroom floor.