They're new and they're exciting - just don't call them the next big things. We bring you three new labels to watch out for in 2010.

Ingrid Starnes

Ingrid Starnes makes the type of clothes women want to wear. No over-the-top referencing of trends, no obvious themes, and no pretentious arty concepts: her garments are subtle and feminine, with a quiet sense of intelligence and confidence. In other words, they're clothes to be lived in, whether you're a fashion editor at a glossy magazine or a young mother of twins - as Starnes herself is.

Learning from one of our best, Starnes worked in the design room at Kate Sylvester for three years, before leaving in 2008 to have children.


"I had always wanted my own thing, and having kids was just the best push to do so. Being able to work from home - it was the perfect opportunity."

A long love affair with vintage inspired Starnes' debut collection for winter, which is based around a very loose theme of pleating (a silk kimono style pleat dress is a stand-out).

"I don't really follow a set theme; it just evolves as I go," she explains.

"I like the little aspects of vintage clothing, the detail." This passion for the little things translates directly into her work - think lace cut-outs on a gorgeous silk top, pintucking on the shoulders of a merino cardigan, scalloped edges on a tailored wool jacket, lace detail on a lingerie inspired bustier.

Another key aspect of the collection is the mostly subtle palette (with the exception of a bold red tissue silk dress), which Starnes says was inspired by old photographs that have been repainted.

Selected pieces from the range will be available from the store Made in Auckland - or are available from her website


Starnes says a long term goal is to open her own store, but for now she is taking it slow. "I think it's so important to start slow; that's my most important thing. I don't want to go too fast.

"Right now it's really enjoyable: I can be a mum at home, and also have my creative outlet."

Lou and Ash

Lou and Ash is actually Ava Sanders, with the help of lots of knitters from around the South Island who create beautiful knitted garments, each with a lovely sense of nostalgia.

Established last year, the knitwear label is based on the idea of slow fashion, whereby you honour traditional crafts and the time that it takes to produce an individual garment - slowing down and enjoying what you have in front of you.

A refreshing antidote to seasonal trends and the constant evolving nature of the industry, traditional crafts are interpreted in a surprisingly fashion-forward and functional way. Each colourful piece is one-off or limited edition, whether it be a crocheted skirt or a knitted jacket - and, importantly to Sanders, always handmade.

"A handmade garment is different: it feels different and it looks different. I love the texture and colour of wool or alpaca or mohair and the many varieties and combinations of these textiles," explains the 54-year-old.

The label launched in August last year, with a small range of old-fashioned style crochet blankets, before evolving into actual garments.

The pieces may remind you of something you were gifted in the past, which helps explain the immediate appeal of the label - most people have had something knitted for them whether it was when they were a baby or for their own children says Sanders. She hopes each garment will become an heirloom piece, handed down through the generations.

Before launching Lou and Ash, Sanders was a full-time mother (the label's name comes from combining the middle names of her two daughters), as well as studying everything from history, politics and science - she was also involved with a fashion label called Cables in Sydney.

Now based in Dunedin, Sanders was keen to keep the art of craft and handmade items alive and launched Lou and Ash after becoming despondent at the limited range of textiles, colour and "uniqueness in fashion", as well as the mass production of fashion that's grown over the years. The label already has one influential fan - fashion blogger Rumi Neely posted photos of herself wearing one of Sanders' snuggly knitted jackets on her blog Fashion Toast.

Her pieces will make their runway debut in early March at Dunedin iD - perhaps inspiring the rest of us to pick up our knitting needles.

"Knitting or doing crochet or whatever it is that interests you is such a good thing to do to slow down or calm our minds in our busy world. It is very grounding and apparently has huge health benefits - obviously it has something to do with stress levels, and of course when you are trying to understand and knit a complicated pattern you get lost in it and forget about everything else."

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Commoners Alike

Free-spirited individuals who walk to their own beat: that's the ideology behind Commoners Alike, a new label of "unique on-trend basics at an affordable price point".

Jae Mills is the ambitious designer behind the label, which was launched to fill what he sees as a gap in the local market.

"The idea is to offer a range of key wardrobe staples that are simple yet with a point of difference. The ambiguous nature means each piece is open for interpretation and can be worn by men and women."

The first collection for winter 2010 - available at Black Box Boutique (where he is manager) and Area 51 in Auckland, and other boutique stores around the country - features 10 pieces that are simple and pared back in shades of black, white, grey and navy, and processed "to feel slightly lived in and familiar". Prices will start at $69, rising to $339.

"The silhouettes are not fit-critical, rather relaxed and intended to drape on the body," explains Mills.

"The brand's purpose is to offer the key basics that everyone needs in their wardrobe - several great basic tees, a good shirt, a layering piece and a good coat - all of which can be worn with your investment pieces."

At just 26, Mills has already held some impressive jobs - he had a senior design position at Huffer, moved on to Workshop Denim where he completed three collections, and has also done freelance work for London based brands ASOS, TopMan and Hurwundeki.

Building a brand is important, something that he thinks he took on while working for such well-known labels.

"I really learned the reality of what it means to have a fashion business. I don't think people understand how difficult it is to create and maintain a brand. And having worked for two of New Zealand's success stories was very inspiring," explains Mills, who says he isn't interested in trends. Commoners Alike is more about providing blocks to build upon.

"I'm not really interested in peddling trends season to season. I'm more inspired to create the foundation for any discerning wardrobe."