Fashion's high five
Christchurch's fashion designers continuie to dress the city in style.
Handmade silk laces, old silk satins and vintage pieces have long held a fascination for bridal designer Louise Anderson. Yet there is nothing fusty or old-fashioned about her personalised approach. "From the start, I thought bridal wear needed a good dose of stylishness!"
As a child, Louise loved hunting for beautiful fabric pieces, but that didn't mean a future in fashion design was inevitable. On first leaving school, she trained as a nurse. Fortunately, though, she also enrolled in a part-time fashion course. "Once I got there, I started winning awards - I knew I'd found my niche."
In business now for more than 20 years, Louise loves the process of transforming brides-to-be. "It doesn't matter how beautiful the gown is, it must enhance and suit the woman who will be wearing it. The key is finding the right gown for the right person and choosing the right design, cut and fit."
Since losing her Lichfield St premises in the February 2011 quake, Louise has been working from home, but has recently launched a new personalised bridal studio in Tai Tapu. While she has lost staff as a result of the quakes, she has also acquired a highly skilled seamstress from London. "I feel as though things are falling into place."
And there's every sign Louise's own children might have a future in the industry; both are learning to sew on their great-grandmother's reliable old Elna sewing machine.
Louise Anderson's style: "Personalised and fashionable bridal couture from traditional looks through to edgy fashion-forward designs, along with a ready-to-wear range of simple and stunning gowns."
Emerging theme: "Five to 10 years ago, nobody wanted lace; now 90 per cent do. I'm really grateful for that, because I collect vintage lace and have many exclusive one-off pieces!"
"Courage to change" best describes the ethos of Christchurch fashion designer Rebecca Herring, who gave up a successful 23-year career in hairdressing to pursue her passion for art and creative design.
Rebecca first took up brush and paints while recovering from major surgery. A latent creativity was unleashed, one that quickly led to Rebecca exchanging life in a salon for a full-time career in art, clothing and jewellery design. Her company, ArtStyle, was launched in 2004.
Having had her fair share of health issues - and learnt how to camouflage them - Rebecca takes an empathetic approach to designing for other women. "Number one is if you feel comfortable in your clothes, you will also feel confident." Rather than following standard looks in the fashion industry, Rebecca says ArtStyle is ever-changing and evolving. Value for money is another keystone commitment, delivered through collections that work together from season to season.
Giving back to the community through mentoring work and donations to charity is also important for Rebecca, helping to improve the lives of others going through tough times.
Summer fashion forecast: "I'm inspired by trends and fabrics in Europe, where people are getting into floral designs and fruit-salad colours. There is a move away from leggings and tunics, and towards feminine dresses that drape and flatter."
ArtStyle is: "Passion with fashion! Our labels say it all: Live your life with purpose, following your dream to make each day count and to embrace life's changes, you will see what you are meant to be".
All the signs of a discerning eye for fashion were there from childhood for Japanese-born designer Takaaki Sakaguchi, who recalls rejecting a particularly expensive pair of brown flannel trousers his mother once chose for him.
"They were the wrong colour, so I refused to wear them! I've always had a very keen sense of what looks good and what does not," he says, citing Christian Dior and Coco Chanel as early influences.
Takaaki entered the fashion industry working for Japanese fashion house Koshino, where he quickly ascended to the position of head designer. It was a cutting-edge role, including regular trips to attend Paris Fashion Week.
After moving to New Zealand in the mid-1990s, he was offered a job in Patrick Steel's Parnell studio. As he recalls, it was still early days for this country's fashion design scene and a busy, exciting time to be part of a fast-evolving industry.
By 1998, Takaaki had moved to Christchurch, launched his own label - Sakaguchi - and was soon to open a store in Merivale. Success at New Zealand Fashion Week followed, along with a string of awards. Being nominated to judge at this year's World of WearableArt Awards Show has been another honour for Takaaki.
At this time of year, Sakaguchi is busy supplying the Christchurch market with orders for special Cup and Show Week outfits. It also supplies to nearly 50 stores across Australia.
Coming this summer: "Trans-seasonal garments with a lot of colour and a lot of print, including geometric lines inspired by architecture."
Sakaguchi style: "Colour and texture inspire me. People say they like the oriental feel of my designs."
After twice losing central-city premises to the quakes, Plush's Carolyn Barker has more than earned her place at Cashel St's Re:Start container mall. "I've been here since the end of last October," she says. "Prior to that, I was in Ponsonby [Auckland] for six months, but trading was very slow - so I'm back in Canterbury and pleased to be here."
Carolyn is a self-taught designer. Her entrée into fashion came via her sister's friend, who suggested she have a go at selling second-hand and retro clothing. From there, it was a small step to making and selling her own skirts. "It evolved from there."
She set up her first shop in High St about 17 years ago, when the area was underdeveloped. "But I could see it had potential, with the polytechnic so close by. It was a great location." At least, it was until the September 2010 earthquake. She then had to find new premises in Manchester St (the Majestic Theatre) and was fortunately able to retrieve her stock from there after the February quake last year.
Now trading from Re:Start, Carolyn believes the key to her enduring success in the city is "keeping it real" by offering versatile choices for sizes 8 to 22. The flow of international tourists through Re:Start has resulted in additional interest from across the Tasman, with a central Sydney store now wanting to stock Plush.
Summer fashion forecast: "Bold colours and prints, including some animal print."
Plush's style: "Classic with a twist. I like to use natural fibres that drape well and are comfortable."
Young fashion designer Nathan Ingram, who launched his label Love Triangle a year ago, rates Christchurch as exciting, with a fast-growing reputation for innovation and creativity.
Part of that innovation wave, Nathan represents a new kind of fashion designer: nimble and quick to seize upon the potential of cutting-edge technology, (in his case, digital printing). Having made clothes for as long as he can remember, Nathan is also using skills he picked up as a student studying graphics to design his own textiles.
Rather than creating large seasonal collections, Nathan prefers smaller runs and one-off pieces, and manages his design studio around being a fashion tutor at CPIT. "It gives me the freedom to do what's important with my time, rather than constantly trying to design six months in advance," he explains.
Nathan previously produced garments under the Genius label for six years. Love Triangle, which sells at Where the Fox Lives and Infinite Definite, represents a shift towards more individualised, quality pieces. The target market is fashion-savvy 18 to 35-year-olds with a bold and adventurous streak.
In his role as a fashion tutor, Nathan is enthusiastic about Christchurch's new generation of fashion students. "For the past two years, our students have won the Westpac Young Fashion Designer Competition. There are very talented students here, some of whom will go on to start their own labels."
Looking ahead: "I want to incorporate more digital printing into my work. It gives the opportunity to really individualise styles doing my own unique prints."
Love Triangle is: "high-end street fashion for men and women ... edgy, yet not too avant-garde".