It was billed as an exclusive and glamorous fashion event in a luxury home on Waiheke Island. But the invitation-only party took a turn for the bizarre yesterday, leaving top fashionistas perplexed.

A select group of leading designers and media representatives was invited to celebrate the launch of the FedEx Global Access Fashion Awards with a cocktail party at an upmarket house in the Hauraki Gulf.

Some said they had been told by organiser Pearl Going they were "finalists" in an award worth thousands of dollars, which they hadn't entered and knew nothing about.

The awards were a preface to a controversial new fashion show that is set to clash with Air New Zealand Fashion Week's new festival.

Yesterday, guests were directed to meet at the Auckland Ferry Terminal to take the 11am boat to Waiheke. They were met by a man under a FedEx flag and given ferry tickets, then left to their own devices.

Going, a 24-year-old Aucklander and regular of the social pages, also sent an invitation to a Herald on Sunday columnist.

The invitation said the awards were linked to a fashion event Going is planning for March 26-28 next year.

Designers who turned up at the ferry terminal included Steve Dunstan from Huffer, Marc Moore from Stolen Girlfriends Club, two from Lonely Hearts and two from Federation.

Several expressed apprehension about the event and how little they knew about it. Zambesi and Nom*D designers are said to have arrived at the house later; Cybele and World declined their invitations.

On reaching Waiheke, guests were unsure what to do because Going was not there to meet them.

Two - broadcast personality Noelle McCarthy and TV3 journalist Rebecca Wright - decided to leave.

Guests eventually found a bus driver with a FedEx sign, and boarded apprehensively.

The bus took them to a location near the main town of Oneroa but the driver seemed unsure where he was going. A woman who identified herself as being from FedEx said she knew nothing of the event she was accompanying guests to.

Eventually the bus stopped and guests were directed down a driveway to a large clifftop house where they were welcomed by Going.

Wearing a cocktail dress and heels, Going asked the Herald on Sunday to talk to her upstairs. She said she was annoyed that a reporter and photographer had turned up uninvited.

On being asked for more information about the awards, and the March event they were held to promote, Going said "we're not announcing anything about the event". The Herald on Sunday was eventually asked to leave.

According to the White Pages and Quotable Value, the house is owned by Scott and Vicki St John, who could not be reached for comment. It is listed for sale.

Going's plans for next year have caused confusion in the close-knit fashion world.

On October 25, Air New Zealand Fashion Week organisers, Pieter Stewart and her daughter Myken, announced plans for a fashion festival aimed at ordinary Kiwis kicking off in Auckland next March.

Two days later, a trademark for an Auckland Fashion Festival was officially filed through the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand by Sian-Pearl Going, Going's full name. This event is also in March and also aimed at ordinary Kiwis.

The invitation to yesterday's event said Fashion Week organisers "tried everything in the book to shut us down" - a claim denied by the Stewarts.

Going's festival is thought to be the New Zealand Style Series, a name registered with the Companies Office on August 3. The directors are Going and Troy Ryan.

The promotional proposal for potential sponsors is very similar in design and wording to Fashion Week's 2008 proposal.

Going told the Herald on Sunday Style Series was supposed to run late this year, but had been postponed to March for a reason she would not disclose. It was targeted at the general public, allowing fashion fans to view winter ranges, at the Hyatt Auckland.

She said she had secured numerous sponsors, but would name only Singapore-based FedEx.

Going said yesterday she had no idea about allegations of her similarities between her event and the Stewarts' new venture.


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