Wanaka designer Sue James-Moore lights the flame for oilskin and fur

Wanaka designer Sue James-Moore with her Central Oil oilskin jacket.
Marjorie Cook

Wanaka designer Sue James-Moore with her Central Oil oilskin jacket.

Wanaka designer Sue James-Moore has turned up the lamps on oilskin fashion and designed a range of jackets she describes as "houses for bodies".

Moore has always loved clothing and interior design and dreams of breaking out of her home-based industry and working in a fashion hub in Wanaka.

But for now, her life is all about oilskin jackets.

Tracy Cameron of Ican Models wears a Central Oil jacket by Wanaka fashion designer Sue James-Moore.
Julian Apse

Tracy Cameron of Ican Models wears a Central Oil jacket by Wanaka fashion designer Sue James-Moore.

She launched her business, Central Oil, last year and is now stocking her line of possum fur-trimmed garments at Wanaka store, 47 Frocks.

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James-Moore studied clothing design and construction and pattern drafting at Christchurch Polytechnic.

Detail on a Central Oil jacket.
Julian Apse

Detail on a Central Oil jacket.

In 1999, she moved to Wanaka, began making garments for people at home and ran an interior design store for a time.

She has long dreamed of her own line of clothing but wanted a business that fitted with raising her three children, Ella, Freya and Lachy, with her husband Marcel Moore.

About two years ago, James-Moore began working on oilskin and fur jacket concepts.

Wanaka designer Sue James-Moore with her oilskin jacket.
Marjorie Cook

Wanaka designer Sue James-Moore with her oilskin jacket.

Her philosophy was to create a garment with longevity; something durable and timeless.

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"I thought about fabrics that lasted and came up with oilskin. It is actually a beautiful fabric, so functional but sexy. It glistens in the heat, there is a shimmer to it. These jackets are quite fitting. There's a sheen to them. You want to touch them," she said.

There was also a nostalgia about oilskin that appealed to her, she said.

Model Tracy Cameron in a Central Oil jacket.
Julian Apse

Model Tracy Cameron in a Central Oil jacket.

And after more than 17 years living in Wanaka, "I think I have a gist for what the girls like to wear".

"I wanted it to be worn in a business environment, something that could be worn in all environments . . . I think about it for the girls who work in vineyards. But it could be worn out for dinner as well."

Above all, she wanted to use a fabric that held its form.

Wanaka designer Sue James-Moore at home with her oilskin jacket and chickens.
Marjorie Cook

Wanaka designer Sue James-Moore at home with her oilskin jacket and chickens.

"I love structure and form, so I also love building houses. I have built three. I am into houses and oilskin jackets. I am not compelled to design something that does not have form. Oilskin is a house for people's bodies," she said.

James-Moore considered contracting a Blenheim factory to make the jackets but decided to remain a "one woman band".

"I want to make it a Wanaka business. I want to employ people here in Wanaka. It doesn't need to be a big production. At the moment, I can make them to order," she said.

She hoped to know after winter whether sales were strong enough to employ a helper. Her first week was "pretty good".

"I reckon there's good potential just from that one shop. I don't sell online but people can approach me."

As Wanaka grows, James-Moore hopes more fashion designers would come out of the woodwork and form a hub.

"My ideal would be to have a space. I would love to be able to set up my pattern drafting and machines, just to not work from here [at home]. I am too social," she said.

James-Moore is also a member of the Novia Brides team, founded by Hawea Flat business woman Sandy Sharratt.

She was making Sharratt's wedding dress four years ago and their research led them to Yolan Cris, a Barcelona fashion-house specialising in haute couture wedding dresses and evening wear. 

Novia Brides is now the exclusive New Zealand supplier for Yolan Cris and James-Moore spent 10 days in Barcelona last year, learning from the design team.

 - Stuff

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