New Zealand Fashion Week: five young local brands to watch from millennial designers shaking things up

Up-and-coming brands Georgia Alice, Wynn Hamlyn, Jarrad Godman, Rachel Mills and Ryan Turner are all run by young New Zealand-based designers who are looking to take the country, and the world, by storm

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 August, 2018, 3:30am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, 6:27pm

New Zealand’s fashion industry is going through something of a millennial reboot at present.

Three of the brands that will appear at New Zealand Fashion Week this year – Maggie Marilyn, Georgia Alice and Wynn Hamlyn – won’t be unveiling winter collections. They will, instead, present excerpts from the cruise 2019 collections that they have just presented in showrooms in Paris.

Eschewing the traditional New Zealander designer route of focusing first on home and Australian retailers, these globally ambitious newcomers are aiming straight for the world.

None are higher profile than 24-year-old Maggie Hewitt, the founder and designer for Maggie Marilyn which, since launching two years ago, is now stocked at over 70 international retailers including Net-a-Porter, Bergdorf Goodman and Lane Crawford.

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These up-and-coming designers are appearing at the same time a new generation of New Zealand creatives are taking the world by storm, such as Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Lorde and choreographer Parris Goebel, who has worked with Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj and Ciara. That’s adding to the energy generated by the election of 38-year-old Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the world’s youngest female political leader.

A plethora of emerging fashion brands – all in business for five years or less – will appear at this year’s New Zealand Fashion Week, joining industry stalwarts including Zambesi, Trelise Cooper, Stolen Girlfriends Club and Huffer. Here are five young names to watch on this year’s schedule, which will run from August 27 to September 2 in Auckland.

Georgia Alice

In 2011, five years before Maggie Hewitt began her journey into international orbit, 20-year-old Georgia Currie started quietly blazing a trail as a local fashion force. That year, while still a student at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, she won the Westpac Young Fashion Designer Competition at New Zealand Fashion Week. She pocketed NZ$5,000 (US$3,300) and was given some business mentoring. It was the first of a number of awards she has won over the last seven years.

Currie launched Georgia Alice in 2013, creating a brand name out of her first and second names (as did Hewitt). She sold primarily to Australia in the first few years, garnering interest for her pared-down cool girl aesthetic of louche, slouchy trousers with distressed edges, balloon-sleeved shirts, and chic monochromatic fitted blazers. Early mentions by US influencers Leandra “Man Repeller” Medine and Solange Knowles amped up her profile. In 2016 she made her runway debut at Australian Fashion Week.

Currie now sells through 23 international stockists, including Australia’s Myer department store, Farfetch, Net-a-Porter, Lane Crawford China and Hong Kong, and Seoul’s Rare Market.

She will make her return to New Zealand Fashion Week this year, but not via a fully fledged runway show. Instead she will appear at an VIP dinner and have slots in two group shows. 

Wynn Hamlyn

Turning two of your names into a brand name is clearly a theme among the young New Zealand fashion set. Wynn Hamlyn-Crawshaw will show his Wynn Hamlyn label for the fourth year running at this year’s event. He made his debut in 2015 in the “Choose Wool” group show with a five-piece capsule collection of locally made merino knitwear.

The brand is currently stocked at around 10 New Zealand retailers, including Auckland multi-brand store The Shelter, where it stands aside major international brands including Maison Margiela, Bernhard Willhelm and A.F. Vandevorst.

Hamlyn-Crawshaw recently joined forces with New Zealand fashion consultant Jo Knight, who helped engineer Maggie Marilyn’s success. After one season showing in Paris, his brand will soon launch in Asia exclusively through Harvey Nichols Hong Kong in October.

Known for his deconstructed knitwear and minimalist sportswear and denim, Hamlyn-Crawshaw is largely self-taught and arrived in fashion via an unusual route.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in land surveying from Dunedin’s Otago University in 2011 before spending the next two years working in Australian coal mines for Queensland firm Vision Surveys. Upon returning to New Zealand, he started, but did not complete, a bachelor’s degree in fashion design at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT), adding to fashion studies he had briefly undertaken at Otago Polytechnic, concurrent to his surveying degree.

Jarrad Godman

One of New Zealand’s brightest new fashion stars is in fact an Australian. Jarrad Godman was born in Sydney, raised in Port Macquarie in New South Wales, and didn’t arrive in New Zealand until age 17.

After doing a year of a bachelor of fine arts degree at Auckland’s Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design, he spent four years working as an underwriter for Vero Insurance before starting a bachelor’s degree in fashion design at AUT, graduating in 2014.

Godman’s “Angler” graduate collection, spotted in AUT’s 2014 Rookie graduate fashion showcase, was picked up by influential Auckland retailer James Dobson for his Children of Vision boutique. The pair had first connected while Godman was working as an assistant at Ciel PR during his studies, which was run by another key Auckland fashion figure, Chris Lorimer. Godman’s brand is now available in five New Zealand stores, including The Shelter.

Known for his draped dresses, digital prints and slogan T-shirts, Godman will be presenting an amalgam of his summer 2018 “Total Buzzkill” and winter 2019 “Space, Man” collections at New Zealand Fashion Week – his third time at the event.

Rachel Mills

Noted for their focus on sustainability, Rachel Mills’ collections are created from organic and “deadstock” – unsold overstock – fabrics.

After graduating with a bachelor of fashion design from AUT, Mills launched her label in 2015 while working as a patternmaker for Karen Walker, and today is available through five New Zealand stockists.

Mills will be making her second appearance at New Zealand Fashion week this year after a striking presentation at the event in 2017. 

Her signature fluid silhouettes in a mostly muted colour palette are replete with wrap and tie details. They include slouchy crepe de chine trousers, tie-front organic cotton jeans certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard, sweet crop tops with paper bag necklines, maxi skirts, slip dresses, peignoirs, and kimono jackets.

In February, Lorde gave the brand a boost by wearing Mills’ “Derive” white cotton poplin crop top in a video posted to Instagram during her Melodrama tour. Although Lorde has since deleted all but three of her Instagram posts, the video lives on via the Instagram feeds of Mills and her publicist.

Ryan Turner

Unlike Australia Fashion Week, where indigenous Australian designers are few and far between, New Zealand Fashion Week has always made a point of promoting indigenous design talent. That’s in large part due to the efforts of Miromoda, the 10-year-old Indigenous Maori Fashion Apparel Board – a body that does not yet exist in Australia. Miromoda stages a group showcase at New Zealand Fashion Week every year and this year 10 Maori designers will take part in the presentation.

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Twenty-four-year old Maori Ryan Turner won’t be among them because he’ll be making his solo runway debut at this year’s show with 24 looks from his “di-Vision” autumn-winter 2019 collection.

Born in Auckland and essentially self-taught, Turner briefly studied psychology and philosophy at Auckland University, and later fashion at AUT, before dropping out to intern with Auckland designer Jason Lingard. 

Turner started making his own eponymous line in 2014, specialising in androgynous, unisex garments that take their inspiration from the Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic of imperfection. His look is dark, deconstructed and mostly black, and there is clearly an appetite for more of it in the country – from one store on Auckland’s gritty Karangahape Road, Turner has managed to build up a network of 10 New Zealand stockists.