As New Zealand Fashion Week (NZFW) draws to a close, ORDRE takes a look at three local designers that are becoming internationally renowned. The antipodean nation’s geographical isolation breeds creativity in abundance, so much so that in the major fashion capitals — retailers, customers and press — are tuning in to NZFW with interest. "Being so far from all markets, [our designers] blaze their own trail and design for the varied New Zealand cultures and climate," says Dame Pieter Stewart, the founder of NZFW.
"Emerging and first time designers assure everyone the industry is in safe and capable hands," she continues. "Many of them gaining interest from international buyers and press at NZ Fashion Week."
All proudly designed and manufactured in New Zealand, these labels are inherently sustainable. They share an appreciation for and insistence on small batch production, as well as working with high quality local materials and artisan craftspeople to create products bound for customers all over the world.
Launched in 2016, Maggie Marilyn’s eponymous founder Maggie Hewitt had a chance meeting with Net-a-Porter fashion director Lisa Aiken during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia, which saw the label picked up by the e-commerce giant in its first season. “It’s a feel good brand,” said Hewitt recently. “The Maggie Marilyn girl is a dreamer, she believes that kindness breeds kindness and that anything is possible.” Two years on, the label has over 70 stockists worldwide, including Bergdorf Goodman, Farfetch, Le Bon Marche, Selfridges, Lane Crawford and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Sustainability is a driving factor in everything Maggie Marilyn creates: “I want our customer to feel immense pride when they wear Maggie Marilyn.” Keeping production local not only supports artisans in the country, but allows the designer to monitor every aspect of her supply chain. “We’re so lucky in New Zealand to have these makers who create beautiful products for us that are world class quality,” she said. “It’s our dream to keep Maggie Marilyn based in New Zealand forever.”
Meadowlark Jewellery, run by Claire Hammon and her partner Greg Fromont, has been “grounded in a very 90s commitment to authenticity” since its inception in 2006. Meadowlark’s bespoke jewellery is made to order in their Auckland atelier, minimising waste and recycling materials as much as possible. Net-a-Porter, Luisaviaroma and Nordstrom Space are among stockists, which also include a variety of independent jewellery boutiques around the world.
The global expansion of the business hasn’t come easy for the duo, as they explained to i-D in an interview marking the brand’s 10th anniversary. “New Zealanders don't really like putting themselves out there, so you've got to overcome your own psychological issues to go into a different market,” said Fromont in 2016. Regardless of their apprehension, a Meadowlark septum ring worn Rihanna on the cover of W magazine in 2014 boosted the international profile of the brand, and they’ve never looked back since.
In a studio in Auckland in 2012, Georgia Currie launched her self-titled brand out of a desire to create elevated basics that she felt her wardrobe was missing. For the first four years, Currie was a one-woman-business, but 2016 saw the team expand and allow the designer more time for creative exploration. Each collection is designed to be timeless, incorporating old and new pieces together. “I like the idea that I can wear something from my first season and it will go with something I’m doing now,” Currie told Elle Australia in 2016. “I don’t see separate collections as being a separate voice, I see it as being a growing one.”
Mentored by fellow New Zealander Karen Walker, Georgia Alice is expanding strategically. Stocked by Net-a-Porter and also available on Farfetch, and with a large wholesale business in neighbouring Australia, the Instagram-friendly, of-the-moment brand has been been bolstered to international recognition thanks to fans like Solange, Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.