I had a talk with Zambesi’s menswear designer Dayne Johnston about his design process, the pros and cons of taking a walk at the end of a show and what we can expect to see when they show in Sydney next April…
Tell me about the inspiration behind your winter 09 show.
The show was held in an old city council car parking building, a warehouse type space with beautiful rectangle windows, just across from the Zambesi HQ, built in the late 60s. The catwalk was 60 metres in length, we wanted to create an atmosphere of space so the clothes could breathe and speak for themselves. I recently spent time in Berlin and this location somehow reminded me of the feel of this city. One of the tracks chosen for the show was by an electronic band; Booka Shade, a group from Berlin that makes music on their laptops. For this collection there is a kind of circular theme running through both the women’s and menswear collections; lots of black, army green and lively contrasts of hand knitted mohair. The prints are an important story and one in particular has zebras, tigers and giraffes, reminiscent of psychedelic. We worked with New Zealand Deer leather this season making bomber jackets and shirts. A cape and tunic have been laser cut from the leather, inspired by a hand cut vintage bag. There are traditional men’s wool suitings, these often contrasted with chunky plastic zips. The collection is for Winter 2009 and will be available in store from February.
How closely do you and Elisabeth Findlay work on collections and what is the design process?
We work extremely closely and share the same vision, we seem to be always on the same wavelength and Liz is a very inspirational person to be working alongside. Liz is the womenswear designer and I am responsible for the Zambesi Men’s collection. We design the shoes and accessories together. We are not so much into working on a thematic formula for any Zambesi collection so ideas come naturally and intuitively. The fabric is always the beginning and acts as the muse and ideas and concepts unfold from this. The men’s and women’s collections are always developed and shown together with similar themes and ideas running through both. We spend several months working on choosing and developing fabrics. The planning of a collection is huge, from first idea to the finished product. The patternmaking process begins, calicos are constructed for fittings, balance and proportion are considered. The process evolves over a number of fittings and changes. At Zambesi we tend to work in an organic way, there is a natural sense to our development. We are very passionate in our work and we are always making decisions with the help of each other and the talented team we have.
Correct me if I’m wrong but this year’s fashion week was the first time you’ve walked at the end of the show, what prompted this decision and was it exciting/scary/overwhelming?
No, it’s not the first time, I have walked at other shows, it’s not my favourite part, I’m more comfortable back stage, checking models as they are called. It is important to acknowledge your audience and it’s always a proud moment at the end of any show. I loved when all the models walked in a pack down the end of the runway at this show, it was a really inspirational moment for us.
What’s in store for the summer 09/10 season that you’ll be showing in Sydney – any sneak info you can give us?
We have only started to begin, you will just have to wait and see! The summer 09/10 collection is shown in April next year, it will be Zambesi’s 30th anniversary….
Has Zambesi ever considered showing further afield that NZ/Aus? If you could choose any of the international fashion weeks, where would you show?
We have shown before at London fashion week and also shown at Paris fashion week at Tranoi, a trade fare. For now we are sticking with NZ and Sydney fashion weeks. We are developing our market in Japan at present and are working with a new press/sales agent in Tokyo. We also have press and sales agents working for us in London. The US market is an important field for our growth also….New York fashion week would be a great vehicle for us to show at.
What was your favourite piece from the Winter 08 collection?
The Deer skin leather bomber – a slim fit bomber jacket, trimmed with knit wool bands and half lined in a black cotton calico. The footwear is also a favourite, especially the loafer boot, a mix between a traditional men’s loafer and gumboot, from black patent leather.
What do you like right now?
I love travelling and I am lucky to do so on a regular basis for work. I rate Europe right now, especially Paris.
Any last words?
Isaaclikes! Keep up the great work!