Pieter Stewart's looks that work

By Zoe Walker

NZ Fashion Week found Dame Pieter Stewart. Photo / Babiche Martens
NZ Fashion Week found Dame Pieter Stewart. Photo / Babiche Martens

Who: Dame Pieter Stewart.
What: Founder of New Zealand Fashion Week.
Wears: Local designers, comfortable shoes, pieces that translate from day to evening.

She is the woman behind one of local fashion's most glamorous weeks, when what you wear in the front row can be as closely scrutinised as what's on the runway. But for Dame Pieter Stewart, New Zealand Fashion Week is about being "well dressed rather than dressed up". Stewart attends every single show, meaning early morning starts and working late into the night - but always looks elegant and pulled together. The key to her Fashion Week look? Comfortable shoes.

The front row is essentially your office during Fashion Week. How do you approach dressing each day?
I always organise a few in-season outfits from the designers, but also have a pile of other favourites ready to go. It's always so busy in the run up to NZFW that it is the last thing I get to think about - but my designer liaison, Nikki Harmsen, who has been with me since the first event in 2001 in one guise or another, will undoubtedly try to organise me with a few special pieces.

What does your working wardrobe for the week consist of?
Sadly, not as glamorous as one would hope. I have to start with the shoes and can wear only those I have that are ultra-comfortable to run around [in] all day. We do many miles on very hard floors: after each show we rush up to our office on the top floor to deal with whatever is happening, backstage, seeing designers, just everywhere. Not the place to be tripping on high platform shoes. So often I have had a lovely outfit to wear, only to have to wear a coat over the top because it was cold.

Do you feel that you need to dress a certain way and "dress up"?
I just need to be myself, and feel elegant and well-dressed rather than dressed up.

Do you purchase new pieces to wear each year, or do you prefer to make use of what is already in your wardrobe?
Anything I buy, I have the event in mind - whether it will suit part of the occasion or not. So it's a mixture of both.

Do you change your outfit for morning and evening shows?
I have tried to - and usually have something to change into - but seldom get to it. Our days are so long and so full, just getting everything done and to the shows is often the most I can manage.

Do you make an effort to wear New Zealand labels throughout the week or do you deliberately steer clear so you aren't seen to be "playing favourites"?
I make an effort to wear New Zealand labels and designers at all times - I only ever buy shoes or the odd piece of other designers.

The stereotype of Fashion Week is of everyone in the front row wearing really high heels. Do you?
I notice as I look along the rows often people are quite casually dressed but they go all out with the shoes. I just think how fabulous it looks - but obviously they don't have to walk as far as us. I wear shoes that I have broken in well. Having a very narrow foot, I buy my shoes when I'm travelling, and have some lovely shoes - but some won't cut the mustard for the week, unfortunately. The ideal shoes for NZFW when you're working on it are sneakers, and that's what a lot of our crew wear.

Do you look at what other delegates are wearing throughout the week? Is there anything you would like to see more - or less - of?
I do indeed notice, and some delegates dress up with very well-planned wardrobes, while others opt for comfort - usually with a twist. It will be good having Fashion One here this year, as part of what they are doing is fashion lifestyle, so we should get a lot of shots of what the audience are wearing.

- VIVA

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