NZ Fashion Week 2016: The Verdict

Looking back on what mattered at NZ Fashion Week 2016

Models backstage at Wynn Hamlyn's NZFW show. Picture / Guy Coombes

In the flurry of Fashion Week — shows, people, small talk, Snapchat — there are few moments that really stay with you. Sometimes it’s a show — people still talk about crying at Kate Sylvester’s Stop Your Sobbing show over 10 years later — or the grandeur of a truly spectacular venue. This year, for me, it was all in a line; still in my head a week later. At Twenty-seven Names’ exhibition, the show notes asked — or challenged, in a week dedicated to appearances — “What would happen if, instead of asking, ‘How do I look?’ we asked ‘What will I do today?’”

In the lead-up to Fashion Week, there was some chatter — from myself included — about the lack of “big names” on the schedule. No Zambesi, no Kate Sylvester, no Nom.d. With several young designers showing, many for just the first or second time, it was left to the likes of Hailwood, Stolen Girlfriends Club and Huffer to fill the role of elder statesmen; they all delivered. But the best part of the week was the showcase of the young creative talent coming through — whether it be designers, models, stylists or too-cool-for-school guests. Auckland, and New Zealand fashion, needs that excitement and energy.

The most interesting trend of the week wasn’t based on the clothes seen on the runway, but the people wearing them. At several shows, “nodels” — i.e. non-models, as they have been dubbed overseas — walked the runway, giving the clothes true personality.

At Wynn Hamlyn, several of his friends appeared — partly why the show was so great, as they looked as though they were wearing their own clothes — while at Twenty-seven Names, staff appeared in portraits wearing the collection. Emma Logan was a Fashion Week powerhouse, storming the runway in thigh-high boots and smiley face printed T-shirt at Stolen Girlfriends Club and performing at the Huffer after party under her musical moniker October.

Huffer’s closing show featured interesting new faces alongside established models like Penny Pickard and Tia Woods; it was a fun mix of people chosen to reflect the brand’s collection based on the idea of “local” — cast by one of NZ’s most well-known models, Ngahuia Williams.

Credit the influence of French brand Vetements for this embrace of personality and character on the runway. Although it’s still far from true diversity — the majority are slim, most are white. My hope is that this isn’t a passing fad, but the development of more genuine diversity to come.

GALLERY: The Best Runway Looks

It’s a question that the global fashion industry has been wrestling with the past few years: is the fashion show dead? As the impact of social media, increasing demand and changing seasons has hit, brands have been tasked with finding inventive ways to showcase their clothes in a way that makes an impact with consumers among full-on fashion saturation. Several local designers took on the challenge last week with creative presentations that shook up the traditional runway show.

Miss Crabb took the crown with a fun concept, off the official Fashion Week schedule, that saw her models — a mix of “traditional” models and friends of the designer — turn up to the show and party on the Link Bus.

Elsewhere, Jimmy D asked poet Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle to give a reading before his section of the K Road Presents show, while accessories designer Yu Mei’s installation featured bags being made in front of guests. Salasai combined exhibition, installation and runway show, while The Graduate Choir performed throughout Hailwood’s show — one of the most beautiful moments of Fashion Week that proved the traditional runway show is far from dead.

In the context of fashion, I loathe the term real. “Real women do this”, “real men wear that” ... yuck. But the word had resonance last week, with several of the best shows featuring wearable clothes that you could imagine models’ walking straight off the runway in and wearing in their real lives. That’s no passive aggressive insult — fashion and clothes are made to be sold, worn, lived in. Penny Sage, Harman Grubisa, Wynn Hamlyn and Lucilla Gray are all part of the new wave of fashion talent who are creating beautiful, classic, well-made clothes that women — “real” or not — would want to wear. Fashion to do things in.

Share this:
New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald

Subscribe to E-Newsletter