When creating their fashion label at design school, two Hawke's Bay sisters were inspired by the decadent garments of the French queen Marie Antoinette, along with the Japanese kimono.
Designers Harriet and Ella Garland-Levett have won the Kirkcaldies and Stains Buy New Zealand Made New Designer award for their label, Love Hotel – a double coup because they get stocked at Kirkcaldie and Stains, and receive a cash injection from the Buy New Zealand Made organisation to manufacture their garments.
Love Hotel features draping chiffon fabrics and muted colours, with all the garments screenprinted with hand-drawn images by the designers. Sheer dresses and kimono-style layers, along with Parisian lace pieces, give the range a romantic feel, tempered with classic black and bold polka dot pieces. Suede oversized berets are a signature part of the collection. Harriet, 26, and Ella, 20, have been donning the look for some years.
"The berets make the outfits look more dramatic," says Harriet. "We were inspired by Marie Antoinette's life of excess and feminine decadence. We used drawings inspired by her, fans, French lingerie, and lacy polka dots to create our screen prints."
The sisters have been making their own clothes since they were children, along with costumes for the home movies they've made in their Haumoana home. No surprise then that they ventured to Massey University to study fashion design – Harriet first, and Ella later – and while there, decided to collaborate and launch their own fashion label, Love Hotel.
While many students and graduates do the same thing, not all make it, much less get picked up by a buyer.
The sisters have been making each piece themselves, but the grant now allows them to get the garments manufactured.
The collection also reflects Harriet's love of kimonos. She has about 20 kimonos in her personal collection, and is drawn to their colour and fine detailing.
"I like the way that they're basic shapes that you can layer in feminine ways. The textiles are gorgeous – lots of them have embroidery on top of the print and some of them are hand-painted. They have a one-off quality."
Like the kimono, each Love Hotel garment is unique, designed to be draped and layered, and to be flexible enough to suit a broad range of feminine shapes.
Kirkcaldies has picked up 11 of the 16 items in the collection, including the berets and belts, ranging in price from $100 to $500.
Ella says she and her sister each bring different strengths to the collection.
"Harriet is keener on the textiles and I'm more into the looks, so we balance each other and inspire each other.
"We also both love art and drawing and a big love of ours has been drawing the prints."
Kirkcaldie and Stains marketing manager Lyn Tait says Love Hotel caught the department store's eye for its wearable styling, modernity, detail and clever mix of pieces that can mixed and matched.
It will be on the racks from mid-September.
- © Fairfax NZ News
What's the most stylish age for women?Related story: (See story)