The rich and famous are lining up for Blair Wheeler’s luxury bespoke designs - before he’s even opened a permanent store.
The designer is now totally focused on his own label, BW 36.174, after 13 years working for Kiwi “couturier to society” Adrienne Winkelmann.
He is weeks away from opening his own atelier at a posh spot on 392 Remuera Rd and is operating a pop up at number 396 until it opens.
Among clientele are multiple members of New Zealand’s wealthiest family, the Harts. Wheeler also creates special couture creations for members of fellow billionaire family, the Mowbrays.
Below Deck star Aesha Scott proudly donned the label numerous times at BravoCon in the US and last week turned heads in one of Wheeler’s creations, a stunning burnt-orange coat dress, on the Logies red carpet in Sydney.
The country got a taste of Wheeler’s flair last weekend when singer Ella Monnery wore a black number for the national anthem in Dunedin for the All Blacks’ test against Australia.
Other celebrity clients include actor Kim Crossman and singer Ladi6.
Wheeler’s most recent superhero-style creation for Anna Mowbray for her metallic-themed 40th birthday bash had many in the fashion industry in awe.
The outfit consisted of a one-shoulder cherry-red fibreglass body plate specially created and moulded to her upper body, along with a gold lamé sarong.
Wheeler, 31, says he likes to go the extra mile for his clients and made a metallic suit for Mowbray’s partner, Ali Williams, so he could look sharp alongside her.
“The rich and famous are not just clients, they become family. They open up their lives to me and they trust that I can deliver on what I promise.”
He is thankful to Hart family matriarch Robyn, a supporter since his early days and says she is a dear friend.
The made-to-measure luxe brand is identified by the designer’s initials BW followed by the numbers 36.174 which are the geographic longitude and latitude co-ordinates of Auckland where each piece is meticulously crafted.
“My job as a designer is to always push my client out of their comfort zone, to always suggest trying something new, and so the journey will begin where we are both learning and creating something unique together,” Wheeler tells Spy.
“I feel like every woman has that instinct to want and feel beautiful and intelligent, exotic, acknowledged, and most importantly valued.”
He says he hopes his clothes bring out the individual qualities in each woman.
After high school, Wheeler attended Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design - and nearly didn’t finish as he was not attending enough classes as he was also working for Winkelmann.
Wheeler’s journey included him using unconventional materials like cement powder, crushable leather. He says that through Winkelmann - “the master tailor” - he didn’t just learn design but the business side of things too.
“I have learned to wear many hats, sometimes all of them and in an ever-changing industry, adaptation has been key.”
The married father of one was able to experiment with his own brand as well as Winkelmann’s and says he was recently in a position to become a business partner with her but found their brands going in different directions.
Going out on his own, he says, wasn’t easy.
Wheeler’s ready-to-wear dresses start from $890 and are priced up to $2500. Jackets range from $1280 to $4000. As for the couture pieces, the pricing is all done on the spec of a garment and the designer jokes - when asked to quote on how expensive things can get - “how long is a piece of string.”