Me and my Clique

By Zoe Walker

Zoe Walker finds out how the internet has shaped the friendships - and style - of these groups of friends.

Ben Lawson, Sarah Mason, Katherine Lowe, James Lowe, Sarah Theobald and Maddy Budd. Photo / Babiche Martens.
Ben Lawson, Sarah Mason, Katherine Lowe, James Lowe, Sarah Theobald and Maddy Budd. Photo / Babiche Martens.

They are one of the most followed groups of friends in the country - with just over 100,000 Instagram followers between them - with an understated style that belies their influence.

Katherine Lowe, a blogger and social media manager for model agency Clyne, her brother James, a photographer, her boyfriend Ben Lawson, an audio engineer and producer for Red Bull Studio, and friends Sarah Theobald, PR and marketing manager for Workshop and Helen Cherry, Sarah Mason, buyer/retail manager for boutique Area51, and Maddy Budd, a student and blogger, all met through work and mutual friends.

They connected through a shared appreciation for grey marle, perfect tees, sweatshirts, knitwear, flat shoes - and the love of juice, usually from Ponsonby Central.

Their "look" is so defined that they will often wear the same thing, deliberately and by accident. The two Sarahs sometimes plan matching outfits (Mason says they bonded over a love of Rodarte printed tees and sweats, and wore the same Miu Miu smoking slippers on Christmas Day), and Maddy and Katherine arrived at this shoot wearing identical camel Twenty-seven Names coats.

"I wear mine every day so she can never wear hers and, if she does, then she just has to deal with being matching with me," jokes Maddy, a digital "It Girl" who many local designers are gagging to dress.

All use the words casual, boyish and classic to describe their group's look. "Nothing too flashy," says Ben. "No one ever looks like they're trying too hard," says Maddy, who credits it to the "super-chill" activities they tend to do together (dinners, hanging out at each others' homes, bowling, occasionally karaoke).

"If there was one brand that we would all wear things from, it would be APC," says Katherine. "It's clean, classic. I am pretty sure we've all got something or wanted something from the store. That and Nike."

Both brands help sum up the group's low-key approach to dressing, an attitude Sarah Mason particularly loves about the Lowe siblings.

"Without fail, prior to any event I will get a message from Katherine saying, 'I'm just going to wear jeans and a T-shirt'. She does casual cool better than anyone. I remember going to Australian Fashion Week with her. She wore sneakers, a T-shirt, beanie and backpack and, in true K-Lowe style, was still snapped by Tommy Ton.

"James does what he wants; he's in a superior league of his own. A quote from a Facebook conversation with him a few weeks back: 'I wear what I want, poncho blankets, neck scarves, all white. You don't have to be at a festival to wear this stuff.' He's the greatest."

He also has a lot of influence online: yes, he is Lorde's boyfriend, and his Instagram followers make up the bulk of that 100,000+ followers figure. Think of it as a local designer's dream to be featured on his account - but he says that influence isn't even a consideration.

"I don't take into account what I wear for the sake of others or social media. I like it, and that's enough for me to post about it." He mainly wears Japanese streetwear labels.

The girls admit to being slightly more aware. Maddy and Katherine make sure to feature designers and brands that they truly love and respect, while Sarah Mason acknowledges the impact of garments or brands being shown in a naturally styled way. Sarah Theobald finds the idea of influence hard to grasp, and credits any as an offshoot of the others' social media presence. "I just wear what I like and it's very flattering that people I don't know like it enough to take an interest."

For Lawson, the reason behind the group's influence is obvious: "I don't really notice it, but I think my friends are very attractive," he jokes, "so I can see why they might have some influence".

Veronica Crockford-Pound, Elizabeth Dowden, Samantha Shorter and Clare Andrew. Photo / Babiche Martens.
Veronica Crockford-Pound, Elizabeth Dowden, Samantha Shorter and Clare Andrew. Photo / Babiche Martens.

A glamorous group of friends is behind Les Gens, a members-only group founded by Clare Andrew as a way to connect creative, "like-minded" people through memorable occasions.

"I have an eclectic mix of friends and Les Gens started as a chance to bring everyone together; people who wouldn't otherwise meet," she explains.

That group includes model and Stephen Marr marketing and PR manager Veronica Crockford-Pound, model and blogger Samantha Shorter, model Elizabeth Dowden, fashion designer Georgia Currie, luxury vintage jewellery curator Constance Cummings, fashion PRs Olivia Vincent and Gemma Ross and other fashion insiders.

This is a group all about good times and good taste: masquerade balls, high tea at The Caker, a long ladies' lunch at The Sugar Club. Andrew describes these gatherings as where work and play intersect, the chance to socialise with "future friends and collaborators".

The group's style is as polished as the events, with a focus on local designers who are often also friends - think Trelise Cooper for Andrew and Dowden, Ruby for Shorter, Miss Crabb for Crockford-Pound.

"The style inspiration behind the Les Gens look is that of a glamorous and creative woman who works hard, exercises her street smarts and loves to party," explains Andrew. "I'm a fan of the wild and playful glamour of the Studio 54 era - Bianca Jagger and Diana Ross, Jerry Hall; and the drop-dead natural beauty and sass of 90s' supermodels Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista. That said, style inspiration and taste varies widely across the group! We're all individuals."

Showcasing this glam aesthetic is helped by the internet, connecting members and extending the reach of the group - from event photos on Facebook to portraits of members on their website, and #lesgens hashtags on Instagram. It reflects the way social media has affected how people socialise now, although Andrew believes the group brings together the best of old and new.

"In a way it harks back to an era of pre-internet - providing a space that offers face to face conversations with people of a similar ilk."

Nathalie Gregory, Samara Pepperell, Rose Jackson and Rachael Pilcher. Photo / Babiche Martens.
Nathalie Gregory, Samara Pepperell, Rose Jackson and Rachael Pilcher. Photo / Babiche Martens.

A shared love of the past drew Rose Jackson, Nathalie Gregory, Rachael Pilcher and Samara Pepperell together, bonding over their various vintage-inspired projects and one-of-a-kind style.

The group met through Auckland's thriving vintage community, with their work and passion converging in the pages of vintage magazine Glory Days. Jackson, who co-owns the magazine as well as running beauty and styling business Decadia Vintage, met the magazine's art director, Gregory, at a swing dancing class, while graphic designer and pin-up illustrator Pepperell came to the group after visiting and shopping at Pilcher's St Kevin's Arcade store, Rita Sue.

Each contribute their own take on the group's vintage theme, but, Jackson says, the common element is close attention to stylistic details - and no one would "be seen dead in a pair of track pants!"

Such a visually striking group also gets a strong reaction from the public, agrees Jackson, "especially in these rather dressed down times" - everything from being asked if they are attending a costume party to wistful memories of the style of mothers and grandmothers, and lots of cheerful smiles.

But while the focus may be on the past, the group has equally embraced the digital future: initially publishing the magazine online (it is now in print), utilising the international reach of e-commerce (Rita Sue began as an online store) and developing friendships with vintage lovers the world over.

"It has been amazing to connect with all the other nerds that love history and like to bring elements of it back into the present day," explains Jackson.

"We all get to hang out virtually to swap and sell, share info about exhibitions and gigs, source must-have pieces for our collections or alert each other to an opshop that's selling vintage lingerie for peanuts!"


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