New Zealand Fashion Design gets released today. It’s essentially the Encyclopedia of New Zealand Fashion, published by Te Papa. New Zealand Fashion Brittanica if you will. Containing profiles of 25 designers, a catalogue of imagery and a couple of essays about the industry – important moments, the ‘New Zealand look’ (though I don’t think anybody actually believes in that anymore) and the key players – the book is big. Five kilograms big. It’s a tome.
It covers off all the usual protagonists – Karen Walker, Zambesi, Nom*D, WORLD, Kate Sylvester, Trelise Cooper, Workshop, Tanya Carlson, Adrian Hailwood; but also devotes a good section to the older guard – Marilyn Sainty, Doris De Pont, Liz Mitchell, Sabatini White; the off-the-beaten-track names – NG, Sakaguchi; the up and comers – Stitch Ministry, Cybele, Beth Ellery, Deborah Sweeney, Lonely Hearts, Juliette Hogan, Jimmy D, Camille Howie and Alexandra Owen; and one menswear designer – Murray Crane.
I haven’t had a good chance to look at it (about 15 minutes in the flesh under the watchful eye of a publicist), but it seems like a fairly comprehensive snapshot of the last 30 years of New Zealand Fashion. There are, however, some fairly obvious labels missing. Where is Huffer? It might not be high fashion but it is an incredibly prominent and important New Zealand brand. How did they decide on Stitch Ministry but leave out Huffer? Seems a little odd. Where is Stolen Girlfriends Club? Maybe the label hadn’t been going long enough to qualify. Where is Working Style? Besides not having a ready to wear collection a la Little Brother, Working Style is a very similar business to Crane Brothers, selling made to measure and off the rack suits. Where is Miss Crabb?
But I guess that’s the difficulty in producing a work like this. There will always be somebody left out, or somebody who people feel aren’t good enough to have been included. You can’t please everybody. Especially here in New Zealand.
The book is worth reading for the stories of how everybody made it. And for the photos. The photos are classic. Like Helen Cherry and Liz Findlay in Tokyo in 1985. Or a very young Trelise Cooper wearing those Paul Holmes-esque specs. Or Ilona Rogers as Maxine Redfern in Gloss dressed in an 80s Liz Mitchell power suit. Good times.