New Zealand Fashion Week (NZFW) 2018 has been and gone, and I feel kind of like I’ve been hit by a bus, but a very beautiful sparkly one. I came in one end armed with glass jars of pumpkin soup, zero waste scones, and homemade muesli bars. I popped out the other end with greasy hair, a shit load of goodie bags, and an enthusiasm for fashion that I’ve never felt before.
Here’s what went on:
The opening night went off uneventfully. I met a lovely makeup artist, giddy at the idea of working her first NZFW, and left early to stop myself from being that weird people watcher in the corner. I instantly discovered fashion weeks are the best place for a fashion-loving-people-watcher. The outfits were out of this world.
Four days of back-to-back shows all blurred into one, but the standouts were phenomenal. Of course, I had my ‘ethical-fashion goggles’ on, armed and prepared to be wowed by the beautiful garments in front of me, but disappointed by the story behind the making. I was constantly reminding myself of Mahatma Gandhi’s words:
“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.”
For the most part, I was pleasantly surprised. It appears New Zealand designers are activists in their own unique ways. They each stand up for something close to their heart, and design and create in ways that reflect that. This doesn’t mean they were all perfectly sustainable from seed to garment, but it did mean they had a conscience.
New Zealand made brand, twenty-seven names mission statement caught my eye:
At twenty-seven names, we make beautiful clothing. But it’s more than that to us – we feel responsible to the people who make, sell and wear our clothes. We try to make choices that support women, help local and small businesses, and cause the least harm to the environment. From the casting of our fashion week shows, to the language we use in marketing; from the buttons on our coats to the stitching on our dresses – we know we have an impact on how people feel and the way they live, and we try to make sure we’re making things better, not worse.
Their bright prints, classic styles, and chicks skateboarding down the catwalk made me smile. Twenty-seven names is the mastermind of Rachel Easting and Anjali Burnett, who met in primary school. They now have two stores in Auckland, one in Wellington, and their name is widely known across the country. I love a good success story with an ethical-fashion twist which hasn’t boxed them into a ‘hippy-dippy’ niche.
By the end of the week, I was sick of seeing stick figure models walk the runway with grumpy expressions. Rachel Mills’ installation show was refreshing. Models were positioned around the room, moving and interacting when cameras were pointed at them, but flicking back to their usual selves between ‘model moments.’ Rachel Mills garments are made in New Zealand from deadstock and organic fabrics. She promotes a slower way of consuming, and designs with the intention of “transforming the process of getting dressed into a ritual rather than a chore”. I went into fashion week expecting to be the only one who gave a shit about ethical fashion. But turns out, I was not alone.
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Aurai Swimwear was another standout, bracing the runway with ethically-made swimwear made from recycled fishing nets, carpets, and discarded plastic components. The collection is ‘surf safe’, offering bodysuits and tops practical for surfing. Aurai’s newest collection includes pieces designed to be mastectomy friendly, allowing breast cancer survivors to rock swimsuits comfortably. It was a beautiful moment when three breast cancer survivors walked the runway amidst the models; the crowd went crazy.
NZFW saw some of our country’s popular fashion brands such as Kathryn Wilson, Trelise Cooper, Knuefferman, Stolen Girlfriends Club and Huffer strut the runway with intention and pride. Although the models could always be more culturally diverse, the sizes could be more realistic of our population, and the story behind the making of garments could be more transparent and aligned with my personal ethics, I was proud to be a New Zealander last week. Going into it, I didn’t know what to expect. In the space of seven days, I went from never attending a fashion show to attending 23. Overwhelmed is an understatement. But overwhelmed isn’t always a bad thing.
The future of fashion is never clear, but the number of times I researched the designer and found ethical policies around their garments I agreed with, was encouraging. Whether this is greenwashing because they know consumers are asking, or a genuine shift in the tide of fashion, I’m yet to find out. Regardless, I’m excited about the future of New Zealand fashion.
Title image credit: twenty-seven names