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 ten names that you need to know.
Zambesi was founded in 1979 by Elizabeth and Neville Findlay. The couple endeavor to create a unique aesthetic that is heavily inspired by contrasting fabrics. You can expect classic prints with a dose of modern tailoring. Their most recent work channels the trend for luxe menswear, and highlights include their stylish printed culottes from their most recent womenswear collection, which perfectly captures the brand’s practical yet stylish aesthetic. The brand has since expanded into eyewear and menswear under the auspice 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 sharp pieces that prioritize materials like silk and sharp silhouettes. This brand was founded by Deborah Calder ten years ago after she recognized a huge gap in the market. The brand aims to bridge the high-end designer labels and the high street. Highlights include tailored blazers and statement pieces in bold metallics. They also aim to create fusions between trends and and timeless pieces which customers will treasure in their closets for years to come. She sells her label in both Australia and New Zealand (international customers can take a look at Storm’s website) and has been featured in New Zealand’s fashion bible Remix.
Company of Strangers
Company of Strangers was founded by designer Sara Munro in 2008 with the aim of creating clothes and jewelry with a “dark but romantic aesthetic,” all of which is made in New Zealand. Her jewelry 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. Her most recent collection included draped pieces in luxurious fabrics which are fit for any special occasion, while still retaining individuality.
One Kiwi designer everyone should know already is Karen Walker. Known for larger than life statement eyewear and timeless feminine staples, Walker started showing collections in 1998. Walker represents her brand on the world stage by showing at New York Fashion Week every season, but still lives in New Zealand. Walker has expanded her empire into interiors and jewelry, 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. She has been included in numerous lists of the industries top professionals, including Business of Fashion’s Top 100. She has also been a recipient of a ‘World Class New Zealand Award’, which recognizes talent in New Zealand. A true powerhouse of New Zealand talent.
Even if you don’t recognize Trelise Cooper’s name, you probably already know her designs by sight. She has been featured in Vogue, Marie Claire and InStyle, and she has even designed clothes for Sex and the City. Her designs have even been worn by high-profile musicians such as Miley Cyrus and Stevie Nicks. Cooper also supports environmental charities, and has been committed to creating a carbon friendly company. The most recent Trelise Cooper collection involved high-octane floral prints in a range of modern silhouettes. Her brand has also expanded into a diffusion line at a more accessible price, jewelry, a kids range and fragrance. Famous for a clean aesthetic which still 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 and Francis Hooper. L’Estrange Corbet is a graduate of the London College of Fashion while Hooper gained experience by working for John Galliano and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons. While they were mostly known as an alternative brand throughout the 90s, they shot to mainstream success in 2001, when their ‘21st Century Origami Dress’ attracted media attention. While their aesthetic may earn them class rebel status, 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, Denise 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.
Adrienne Whitewood takes inspiration from her Maori 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.
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 real women, combining practicality with luxe to create truly desirable pieces. Her expansion saw the launch of Salasai home in 2014, which includes vintage style soft furnishings and linens which are the kind of pieces that will make a house feel like home.
My Boyfriends Back
My Boyfriends Back was established by designer Danielle Burkhart in 2010. Burkhart is based in Wellington near the epic Wairarapa landscape, and she captures the aesthetic of urban-meets-organic in her brand by creating beautifully crafted pieces. She also strives to make the most of New Zealand talent by collaborating with a range of New Zealand artists and photographers. Their most recent collection, entitled ‘Electric Sunset’ includes a range of exciting party pieces in bright hues and elegant drapery. The label usually exhibits at Wellington Fashion Week, which is famed as a platform for younger designers.
Working Style’s status as one of New Zealand’s leading menswear brands belies their humble beginnings of selling made to measure shirts door to door. These days, the brand has five boutiques throughout New Zealand and have built a reputation as one of the finest suppliers of menswear. While the 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. They have also expanded into a range of luggage, accessories, and casual clothing in order to ensure that your entire wardrobe is well-kept and professional.