IF THERE'S such a thing as a male fashionista the local title goes to Elliot Pollard.

It figures, he's been in menswear more than 50 years, all but a smidge in Rotorua.

He's shared a speakers' platform with the Queen's designer of choice, Hardy Amies, and lunched with Pierre Cardin.

But this is no one-trick pony. It's not pretentious to call him a bon vivant. He's a former member and administrator of the Rotorua Pipe Band, ex Wine and Food Society cellarmaster and chaired the city's Keep Rotorua Beautiful (KRB) organisation for 12 years. Under his tenure Rotorua was crowned the country's most beautiful - six times.


That he was at the helm each time is, he insists, purely coincidental.

"It would be totally unfair to make that claim [that he was in any way responsible for Rotorua taking the title so frequently]. We had all these wonderful ground-floor staff, a very active committee, a brilliant co-ordinator in Christine Findon (Our People, June 6, 2011) marvellous council support, all that has to be taken into account."

We accuse him of being modest. "Absolutely and utterly not, I was simply the figurehead."

An immaculately dressed one at that. When we meet there's a spotted fabric flower in his lapel, his shirt's open-necked and striped. Formal suits, shorts and flip flops are all very well in their place but in Elliot Pollard's book that place isn't a grilling by the media.

Talking with him's confirmation that however well known people's names and businesses may be, many of us know little about the "real deal".

We certainly had no idea Elliot was a Western Heights High foundation pupil or that his pipe band membership was not as a bagpiper but as the bloke on the tenor drum.

"The one who gets to flourish the sticks, it's a bit like twirling the long poi."

Another insight comes with the revelation he met wife Jenny while he was on stage in Tokoroa. "I was playing Twiddles the butler in a local production of the Belle of New York."

Was she in the show too? "This is a terrible thing to say but I don't remember. But it was a very social group."

What he does remember is Jenny was fresh out of Teachers' Training College; that they married 42 years ago. His devotion to his wife, the four children they produced and the next generation down are paramount. They enter his conversation frequently. He's immensely proud Jenny's taught at Ngongotaha Primary 35 years, that their children lead productive lives, that son Ryan's followed him into the family business.

"I'm chuffed, it's really important to me in terms of Pollards going forward."

What better point than to take Elliot backward several decades - to how he came to be in men's clobber from the time he left school.

"I had the opportunity to go into the hardware trade like my father, but I always liked to buy my clothes at Finns, a dollar down, a dollar a week for a shirt. One day Ray [Finn] said 'are you interested in a job, young man?' I said 'yes' and that's where it started, men's fashion was very simplistic then, a coloured tie was a newsflash."

Following a five-year "apprenticeship", Elliot headed to South Africa.

"I'd always had a love for Africa, its animals. Leaving Wellington we sailed past the Wahine lying on her side, it's not what you want to see when you're going to be six weeks at sea."

Eighteen months were spent in Cape Town, working in menswear, "having a glorious time of it". Europe followed.

"It was there I discovered wonderful food, it was a bit of a culture shock but it didn't take me long to embrace it, wine too."

Trips to the Continent were financed by winter work as a tree planter in Britain. "It was very physical, long hours, but the wonderful part was we got the summers off to travel."

His first job on his New Zealand return was in Tokoroa, moving to Rotorua and Keesings Menswear after marrying Jenny. "By then men's fashion here had become almost as vibrant as Europe."

His good mate, Len McHale, introduced him to the pipe band. "I guess what it did was stir my Scottish blood." During his 20 band years he chaired two national championships in the city.

"Rotorua had a very strong band, it's still very active," he said.

Former mayor Grahame Hall invited him to chair KRB.

All the while there was a business to run. After time managing O'Flahertys Menswear he flew solo, opening his first shop in Eruera St, spent 21 years in Hinemoa St before moving to Pollards' present mid-city site in 2010.

We urge for more details on his meetings with Aimes and Cardin.

"In 1998 we [Pollards Menswear] won the national menswear retail prize. It was very exciting. The prize was a trip to the Las Vegas fashion fair, when I returned I had to address the National Retail Association's conference in Christchurch, Aimes was the guest speaker. Sitting beside him I realised how amazing it is that a lot of famous people are actually quite down to earth."

His meeting with Cardin was closer to home, they lunched together at Moose Lodge. "We [Pollards] were his local franchisees. He really was the first fashion designer for the people, until then designers' clients were the rich and famous."

The final topic on our agenda's his love of wine, his cellarman days, and his present involvement with the Wine Tasters Club. Ah, a true wine buff, we say. "People may think so but one thing I'm not is a wine snob, the wine world's full of bulls**t. The best connoisseur is the person drinking it."