From heritage-inspired brands to conceptual avant-garde couture, New Zealand fashion brands are currently making more of an impact on the international fashion design scene than ever before. Here are the top names to look out for from the country’s design scene.
Zambesi was founded in 1979 by Elizabeth and Neville Findlay. The couple endeavour to create a unique aesthetic that is heavily inspired by contrasting fabrics. Expect classic prints with a dose of modern tailoring. Recent work channels the trend for luxe menswear, and past highlights have included stylish printed culottes for their womenswear collection, which perfectly captured the brand’s practical yet stylish aesthetic. The brand has since expanded into eyewear and menswear under the auspices of Dayne Johnston, and is sold throughout New Zealand, Australia and Japan. Their flagship store in Auckland also stocks brands such as Martin Margiela and Rick Owens, which complement Zambesi’s ethos to a tee.
Storm creates stylish pieces in sharp silhouettes that prioritise natural materials such as silk. The brand aims to bridge the divide between high-end designer labels and the high street, and was founded by Deborah Calder after she recognised this gap in the fashion market. Highlights include tailored blazers and statement pieces in bold metallics. Storm also aims to create trendy yet timeless pieces that customers will treasure in their closets for years to come. Calder sells her label in both Australia and New Zealand (international customers can take a look at Storm’s website).
Company of Strangers was founded by designer Sara Munro in 2008 with the aim of creating clothes and jewellery with a “dark but romantic aesthetic”, all of which are made in New Zealand. Her jewellery range is cast in top-quality silver and bronze. Check out their classics range, which includes a selection of the company’s most popular pieces from over the years, including the cheekily named ‘Divorce Ring’ and ‘BFF’ necklaces. The rest of Munro’s garments embody a similar aesthetic, and the label is heavily inspired by rock and punk music. A recent collection included draped pieces in luxurious fabrics that are fit for any special occasion, while still retaining individuality.
One Kiwi designer whose name is already widely recognised is Karen Walker. Known for her larger-than-life statement eyewear and playful feminine designs, Walker represents her brand on the world stage by showing at New York Fashion Week, but still lives in New Zealand. Walker started showing collections in 1998, and has since expanded her empire into interiors and jewellery, as well as a diffusion line with Uniqlo and collaborations with the UN’s Ethical Fashion Initiative. Her designs have been worn by everyone from Alexa Chung to Rihanna, and she has been included in numerous lists of the industry’s top professionals, including Business of Fashion’s Top 100. Walker has also been a recipient of a ‘World Class New Zealand Award’, which recognises talent in New Zealand, demonstrating that she is a true powerhouse of New Zealand talent.
Even if you don’t recognise Trelise Cooper’s name, you may already know her designs by sight. Cooper has been featured in Vogue, Marie Claire and InStyle, designed clothes for Sex and the City, and her designs have been worn by high-profile musicians such as Miley Cyrus and Stevie Nicks. Cooper supports environmental charities, and has been committed to creating a carbon-friendly company. Cooper’s brand has also expanded into a diffusion line at a more accessible price, jewellery, a kids’ range and fragrances. Famous for a clean aesthetic that embodies heaps of personality, Cooper also took on the prestigious task of designing the Air New Zealand Uniform in 2010.
World was established in 1989 by Denise L’Estrange Corbet, a graduate of the London College of Fashion, and Francis Hooper, who gained experience by working for John Galliano and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. While the duo were mostly known as an alternative brand throughout the 1990s, they shot to mainstream success in 2001, when their ’21st Century Origami Dress’ attracted media attention. Their aesthetic may earn them rebel status, but their accolades have been nothing short of prestigious: in 2004, they were the first New Zealand brand to hold a retrospective at the Auckland Museum, and in 2002, L’Estrange Corbet became the first female New Zealand fashion designer to be awarded an MNZM (formally an MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for her contributions to the New Zealand fashion industry.
Salasai designer Kirsha Witcher started her brand in 2006 in New Zealand before crossing the ditch to settle in Perth, Australia. She has since been joined by esteemed designer Kelly Watson, and together they make clothes for women of all ages, combining practicality with luxe to create truly desirable pieces. Their expansion saw the launch of Salasai Home in 2014, which includes vintage-style soft furnishings and linens which are designed to make a house feel like home.
Adrienne Whitewood takes inspiration from her Māori heritage to create unique pieces with emotional significance. She graduated from AUT in 2009 and produced her first collection in 2010. In 2011, her collection titled ‘Te Aho Tapu’ (The Sacred Thread) won the Supreme title at the Miromoda fashion awards at New Zealand Fashion Week. This prestigious prize included mentorship and the opportunity to exhibit her work at Melbourne Fashion Week. She opened her first boutique in 2013 and has since won legions of fans of all ages because of her unique couture pieces and printed garments.
Working Style’s status as one of New Zealand’s leading menswear brands belies its humble beginnings of selling made-to-measure shirts door-to-door. These days, the brand has five boutiques throughout New Zealand and has built a reputation as one of the finest suppliers of menswear in the country. While the original made-to-measure aesthetic is still at the heart of their brand, they also have a range of ready-to-wear shirts and suit separates, and offer suit loans for special occasions. Working Style has also expanded into a range of luggage, accessories and casual clothing in order to ensure that your entire wardrobe is well-kept and professional.