Fashion Week creator made dame

FASHION WEEK FOUNDER: Pieter Stewart.
FASHION WEEK FOUNDER: Pieter Stewart.

Fashion matriarch Pieter Stewart has added another feather to her designer cap.

The creator of New Zealand Fashion Week has been made a Dame Companion of The New Zealand Order of Merit for services to fashion and the community.

Founded over a decade ago in designer Gaye Bartlett's living room, New Zealand Fashion Week has become a major annual spectacle, generating millions of dollars worth of media coverage and sales from around the world.

Employing the equivalent of 185 full time staff, it supports the country's fashion industry which is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy.

Stewart has a long association with the fashion industry, beginning as a model.

But it could have been a very different path had the mother of four stuck to the medical studies she began aged 16. She told the Sunday Star Times in 2002: "If I've got one regret that would be it, not finishing medicine."

The former St Margaret's College pupil married into the Stewart business dynasty at 22, and moved with husband Peter to a Hororata deer farm.

In the early days she would commute to Christchurch in her Mini for modelling jobs.

In 1979, she bought a modelling agency from New Zealand fashion icon Paula Ryan and transformed it into Pieters Model Agency and School. Stewart then began to focus on the role of media in fashion.

In the mid-1980s she became the associate editor of Fashion Quarterly. This led Stewart to establish her own public relations and promotions company in 1988.

Between 1990 and 1997 she co-ordinated and produced the Corbans (later Wella) Fashion Collectionsand when that came to an end, she gathered the key players of New Zealand fashion together to plot the next steps.

The answer was New Zealand Fashion Week, which has run every year since 2000.

Stewart has also been heavily involved in education and community work.

*Pieter Stewart is abroad and not back in New Zealand until mid-June.

The Press