Your guide to Wellington Fashion Week

SARAH CATHERALL & BRONWYN WILLIAMS
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2013

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Wellington turns into a fashionista's paradise today, as the city's highlight of the fashion calendar - Wellington Fashion Week - begins.

There'll be 39 designers in total: a mix of heavyweights like Trelise Cooper, Sabatini/Goodness, Taylor and Starfish, alongside emerging designers such as Love Hotel and Philippa and Alice. And while it's Wellington's fashion week, Auckland designers like Hailwood and State of Grace are showing at the event.

The sold-out AW 13 show tomorrow night will feature collections already on the racks, while Friday's SS '14 group show gives us a sneak peek of next season's collections.

OUR PICK OF THE SHOWS... 

- The sell-out WORLD show, on tonight, 7pm: Expect tonnes of glitter, fabulous hair and more.

- Bright Black: This invitation-only show will feature Auckland designer, Jimmy D, and is hosted by fashion week's official blogger, Stopforth (8.30pm Friday).

- Friday night's Spring/Summer '14 group show: If you want a sneak preview of what's in store for next summer, then look out for Silence Was, Mardle, Love Hotel and Philippa and Alice.

- Kirkcaldies 150th birthday showcase: Featuring Mardee, Carlson, Hailwood and Deryn Schmidt, this group show is at 4pm on Thursday.

- Starfish Autumn/Winter 13 and 14: Wellington's Laurie Foon has titled her show, Queen of Extreme. She'll be showing her winter collection, and also a sneak preview of Spring/Summer at a gorgeous marquee at the Odlins Plaza.

- Kathryn Wilson: The stylish shoe designer will take over the Jeff Gray BMW showroom tomorrow night (8.30pm).

BAG A BARGAIN

Eight designers – Starfish, Deborah Sweeney, State of Grace, High Noon Tea, and more – are joining forces to run a pop-up shop as part of fashion week. Head there to buy a selection of in-season styles plus some tempting discounts on little gems from past seasons. (213 Lambton Quay, until April 14, wfweek.co.nz). 

MEET THE DESIGNER: SILENCE WAS... 

There is something quite unusual about the designs in Yujia Wang's Silence Was... label. They dance the line between being simple without being boring, quirky while still being wearable, and comfortable without being sloppy. "I have a really strong focus on the essence of basic luxury," says Wang. "Comfort runs throughout the entire collection, comfort when it comes to design as well as in fabric."

Wang describes the Silence Was... woman as a modern one, a woman with many jobs who wears many hats. Her designs, she explains, need to be more than just a pretty slip of fabric. "Women want to feel fabulous both at home and when going out; and garments need to be both beautiful and functional."

Wang's collection for spring/summer 2013/14 - which she will be previewing at Wellington Fashion Week - explores the wide range of women that are the Silence Was... customer. The collection presents a set of twin dresses - similar in print but different in cut - to appeal to a wider audience. There are shorter, slim-lined pieces on offer that would make perfect party frocks for Yang's younger fans, as well more forgiving styles with a relaxed and elegant fit for the older or more conservative shopper. Wang retains the brand's core values of basic luxury, however, this season sees an introduction of natural fabrics such as wool and silk blended with high-quality synthetics for easier wash-and-wear.

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Born in China and now living in Auckland, Wang studied fashion in Christchurch and gained experience working for brands like Karen Walker and adidas before going out on her own in 2011. This will be her second time showing at Wellington Fashion Week.

MEET THE DESIGNER: HAILWOOD 

One of the longer-standing New Zealand designers, Auckland-based Adrian Hailwood has garnered a small but dedicated following for his original prints and ladylike glam garments.

This year, the designer's years of hard work paid off; he was picked up by an international distributor and his brand will be stocked in 17 states in America.

A regular at New Zealand Fashion Week, Hailwood shows for the first time at Wellington Fashion Week, presenting his new season winter range. Titled Winter State, the collection draws inspiration from 1970s New York and the music scene at the time.

"I was looking at Debbie Harry before Blondie and the legendary CBGB nightclub with Iggy, Patti Smith and The Ramones," says Hailwood.

Gold and bronze shades from 70s club days are mixed with rich Prussian blue and sandwashed raspberry for a collection that is overtly glamorous with sheer fabrics, "hi-shine" slim-line trousers, swishy high-waisted skirts and luxe quilting. Hailwood accessories play a supporting role, with New Zealand-made bold gold jewellery, belts and bags.

MEET THE DESIGNER: MILLICENT

Wellington designer Paula Shepherd's Millicent label is influenced in particular by 1960s Italia. Feminine, modern, classic shapes are timeless, in colours of yellow, pink, black and fluorescent green. Constructed from rich brocades and silks, her Reflection collection features garments "that women like myself want to wear", says Shepherd.

The self-taught designer began designing clothes while living in Singapore with her diplomat husband and two children.

"Basically there was nothing I could wear. So I taught myself fashion illustration and I went to Vietnam to find a factory. I used a few phrases and many hand gestures in markets where I never saw another European person.

"I can't sleep, I'm so wired preparing for my first show. I've listened to about 1000 songs wondering what we will play for the catwalk, and thinking about things like lighting."

MEET THE DESIGNER: HIGHNOONTEA

Designer Sheryl White is inspired by the new stages of love in the spring/summer collection she'll showcase at fashion week.

Called "Lover you should've come over", the 12 outfits being revealed on Friday as part of a group Spring/Summer '14 show are based on the lyrics of a Jeff Buckley song. Most of White's designs are influenced by film, art and music.

"I thought about the idea that when the relationship starts out, the desire between them is strong, and as the relationship moves through, you borrow your boyfriend's shirt, and feel good in that. And then, as the woman gets her confidence in the relationship, her clothes can get brighter and louder."

While highnoontea's signature colour palette is black, the spring/summer garments move from nude shades to black and white, floral and geometric prints. The collection features boat necks, geometric prints, spots and midi and maxi-length skirts and dresses.

Since she has become a mother of two young boys, the 33-year-old former Massey University tutor has tried to design clothes to suit different body shapes.

"We see the highnoontea customer as a free thinker, who can pick out our classic-shaped pieces and mix them with hard-edged elements," says White.

- Wellington

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