Designers embrace consumer-driven shows at NZFW

INDUSTRIAL CHIC: Images from Stolen Girlfriends Club's 'Verbal Warning' Spring/Summer 2014 collection which will be shown at New Zealand Fashion Week.
INDUSTRIAL CHIC: Images from Stolen Girlfriends Club's 'Verbal Warning' Spring/Summer 2014 collection which will be shown at New Zealand Fashion Week.

Fashion week is no longer dictated by Anna Wintour-types - with a surge in bloggers and social media, more designers are choosing to give customers what they want right now...

It took months to put the show together. More than 1000 people crammed in to a concrete carpark, models stalking a fluorescent tube-lit runway in snake print and leather.

The atmosphere was electric.

Bloggers were posting, Twitter was aflap. Instagram feeds were a reel of Stolen Girlfriend's Club aesthetic - all PVC and exposed zips and printed bags.

And then, the show was over. 

''It's a great time, there's all this hype and then people go home and the clothes don't come out for another six months,'' says Stolen Girlfriends designer Marc Moore.

''We needed to rethink the way we were doing things, and try to find a way to capitalise on the high.''

For 14 years, New Zealand Fashion Week has been highlighted on the calendars of designers, buyers and media. In closed shows, international buyers and magazine editors would watch models walk out in forward season autumn/winter collections.

But for local designers feeling the pinch of the credit crunch, this hasn't always been enough. And with the rise of social and non-mainstream media, publicity generated from a show is happening right now - not three or six months down the track, when mags hit the shelves. 

But Fashion Week organisers are realising it makes sense for designers to show clothes the public could actually wear.

This year, along with four days dedicated to trade,  there's a three day ''fashion weekend,'' dedicated to designers who want to show in-season ranges.

Stolen Girlfriends have shown at Fashion Week since 2007. This year is the first they will show to the public, in an effort to ride the high from the immediate publicity. 

Their collection Verbal Warning had an industrial edge, inspired by factories and blue-collar workers. Prints by designer Brian Roettinger, the cover artist for Jay-Z's latest album Magna Carta Holy Grail, feature heavily, along with white, in the safety-wear infused line.  

But Moore says it is definitely still worth doing the trade show.''For us, our winter collection is all new and fresh so we're really excited about showing it off."

Along with Hailwood and Lela Jacobs, designer Andrea Moore is also hedging her bets.

She'll have a trade show featuring her autumn/winter 2015 wear on Wednesday and a public show with her About Time spring/summer 2014 collection on Saturday. Summer was all about bright, pop-art inspired prints -  lips, stars and hearts scattered prettily on pencil pants and party dresses.

She would debut her urban offshoot label I AM at both shows - and would never risk not doing the trade show, where buyers got to see the cohesive vision of her style.  

''I love shows, I love showing, I love all the models and the way they look dressed up and that people are there to look at the collection. When you do a show you have so much riding on it you do the best you can. You're presenting the brand as a whole look.

''It's difficult to say 'This is how much we earn from fashion week.' It's more about brand growth.'

'Fashion Week runs from August 25, with fashion weekend from Friday 29 - Sunday 31 August.


For the last couple of years, and as big-name designers like World and Karen Walker have steered clear, a question mark has hung over the future of Fashion Week.

 Organiser Pieter Stewart says the global financial crisis hit many designers hard. Whether they show or not often depends on their strategy and cashflow for that year.

''Some of them were barely surviving, poor dears, and when that happens I'm hardly going to put the screws on for their last $5000. We're a platform for designers, and they hop on that platform when it works for their business.''

One of these is Wellington label Twenty-Seven Names, who got rave reviews for their show last year, but have chosen not to return this time.  

Designer Anjali Stewart said she and Rachel Easting had been busy opening two stores in Wellington and Auckland, and felt the splash they made last year would carry them through to 2015. 

But heavy hitters like Nom D and Kate Sylvester are back, along with 71 other labels.

Mercedes Benz, who sponsor 27 fashion weeks worldwide, are backing the event for the first time.

Photographs from each show are uploaded to Fashion@FirstSight on the Fashion Week website instantly, for international buyers to select. Then there's the contingent of media, buyers and bloggers expected in the city.

Based on the performance of the 2013 event, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) is expecting a return of $1.2 million in GDP and 2,290 hotel visitor nights in Auckland during the week.

It has given $200,000 in sponsorship to the event, from a major events funding pool of $1,135,000.