From Cabinet to the catwalk

WALK-ON PART: Paula Bennett has been practising ahead of her  modelling gig for The Carpenters Daughter today.
WALK-ON PART: Paula Bennett has been practising ahead of her modelling gig for The Carpenters Daughter today.

She cuts a stylish figure through the halls of Parliament, but Paula Bennett nearly succumbed to the Wellington wont for black before getting valuable fashion advice from an unlikely source.

It's fair to say the social development minister's sartorial style has come a long way, and she may well have Finance Minister Bill English to thank for that.

Today she will grace the catwalk at Wellington Fashion Week for local label The Carpenters Daughter.

Caroline Marr founded The Carpenters Daughter label for curvy girls in 1990, and has known Bennett since before her days as an MP.

"Having Paula up there is great because she's a woman that a lot of New Zealand women follow, and the size that she is is a good positive image as well, and not a negative."

Bennett said she was more than a little apprehensive about the gig.

"Caroline and I were talking and I thought 'well, it's not something I'd normally do or feel totally comfortable doing,' but it's kind of that feel the fear and do it anyway sort of thing."

Bennett said it was colleague English who initially upset her with his observation a few years ago that her fashion style had trended towards black.

"Bill English looked at me one day and he said to me, 'you've changed'. He said to me: 'You used to wear colour all the time and now you're starting to wear black'.

"I thought, 'Oh I'm not having that'," said Bennett.

Wellington Fashion Week, only in its third year, is quickly becoming a favourite among designers, not least because of its affordable entry.

But Marr said that did not mean the quality on show was inferior to what could be found at New Zealand Fashion Week.

"And Wellington is the heartbeat of New Zealand so it's good to have it here where all the designers are able to come and do something like this."

Every city had a different look.

"With Wellington, to me you're well-educated and you're the corporate of New Zealand, so it has to be more corporate wear, whereas in Dunedin or Christchurch it's a little more eclectically mixed up and more arty," Marr said.

She and Bennett are on a mission to inject some colour into the Wellington winter staple of black outerwear.

"I personally think Wellington's getting more colour," Bennett said. "I love fashion and to support Wellington Fashion Week is what it's about for me so they are New Zealand-made and to see designers out there showcasing what they do is great."

She will be modelling four outfits during the show, but while she will be out of her comfort zone, she won't be alone. Most of the other models will be untrained as well, though Bennett said she had been practising her walk.

"I have seen what I'm wearing, she's putting me in some things I wouldn't wear to Parliament, that's for sure, so it's a bit of fun."


WHEN: Wellington Fashion Week runs until tomorrow . The Carpenters Daughter runway show kicks off at midday today.

WHERE: Shed 6, on Wellington's Queens Wharf.

WHO: More than 20 top designers get to showcase their garments over the week. Designers include Moochi, Ruby and Liam, Taylor Boutique and World Couture.

TICKETS: Range from $20-$49.

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Fairfax Media