Kate Sylvester on fashion and politics

Kate Sylvester opened NZ Fashion Week last month with a rousing speech that recognised the impact of government funding on NZ’s creative industries - fashion included. Here is her speech.

Kate Sylvester opens New Zealand Fashion Week 2014. Photo / Getty Images.

"I am very happy and excited to be back, showing at New Zealand Fashion Week this year. Our 21st birthday was actually the impetus for our return. Trawling back through our past, we realised how valuable our Fashion Week shows have been to the growth of our brand.

New Zealand Fashion Week is a unique opportunity for both established and new brands to be seen by our entire industry - buyers, media and the public. We come together for one week, celebrating and nurturing our industry.

We realised how valuable the event has been to us, how important it is to our industry and jumped back on board quick smart.

Turning 21 is a big milestone. I'm all grown up now and I thought I'd take this opportunity to make a 'grown-up' speech.

As I said, we have had a lot of fun reminiscing [about] the very happy journey we have travelled and celebrating our successes. We worked our arses off over those 21 years - as does everyone who succeeds in this industry.

But, when I compare myself to young designers starting out now, I see a huge difference. A huge advantage that we had, that is missing now: funding.

To quote from my birthday speech: 'For a few miraculous years in the early 90s, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise looked up over the farm fence and saw that there is more to New Zealand than milk and mutton.'

I know with absolute certainty that the funding that myself and my peers received - to show both here at this event and overseas - directly aided us in establishing the international markets that are [an] intrinsic part of our success now.

I look around and see incredibly talented, exciting young brands who could do so much with a helping hand to show first at NZFW, then further afield - Sydney, New York and London.

We talk a lot about being 'global' nowadays, but that is a double-edged sword. Our industry is facing a tsunami of international brands coming our way - both via the High St and the internet.

Does our Government want a country of passive 'global' consumers, importing 'global' product? Or, does our Government want New Zealand to be a dynamic, creative, aspirational country exporting our product to the world?

Trade and Enterprise: please take another look over the farm fence, and help a new generation of Kiwi entrepreneurs take on the world."

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