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From frilly frocks to sleek housewares to whimsical togs for kids, Auckland's designers pepper neighborhood shops with special creations combining new fabrics, colors, and design elements you will not find at your mall back home.
Auckland's streets are a far cry from the open-air runways of New York or Paris, with most residents favoring contemporary clothing and sensible wear. But the fresh ideas and unique perspectives that leading Kiwi designers weave into their clothing will definitely start conversations if you wear any back home. And since they infuse the creations with a vein of New Zealand practicality, you'll find yourself wearing them more often than you'd planned.
If there is one catchall word to describe New Zealand's hottest fashions it would be "iconoclastic," never "understated." Target great shopping neighborhoods like Ponsonby, Parnell, and Newmarket's Nuffield Precinct, where looks are easy on the eyes in a setting that's easy on your feet: small shops are interspersed with relaxing cafés when you need a break to refuel.
Save on Style
North American shoppers enjoy a built-in climatological advantage. Since the seasons are reversed, seasonal clearance items in New Zealand will fit the bill perfectly for weather back home. Scoop up discounted woolens in November (NZ spring) to enjoy all winter, or laze away hot spring and summer days in a February (NZ summer's end) sale-priced beach wrap.
Weekend markets often attract up-and-coming designers, and you can nab one of these pieces before its maker becomes the next big thing. The inconvenience of a makeshift dressing room (curtains behind a clothes rack) can mean a one-of-a-kind find for you.
Walker has long shattered the equatorial fashion ceiling and is well-known in the pages of glossy fashion magazines for clothes that are comfortable and sophisticated, made of rich fabrics and muted colors, and pulled together by playful themes. The look suggests the bad girl with good fashion sense. She draws inspiration from mold-breaking women—Amelia Earhart and Woody Allen's "Annie Hall."
Another made-in-New Zealand designer gone global, Sylvester's style is eclectic and modern, with pieces made to be worn separately or mixed and matched. The colors and fabrics reflect the themes of her collections, from the tutulike skirts in the Black Swan—a riff on classic ballet—to the T-shirts and grandpa sweaters of her grunge rocker series. Sylvester's goals are to create fashion that is sustainable and that transcends trendiness.
New Zealand's madcap version of the Laura Ashley empire includes home, adult, and casual lines. Feminine fantasy confections of ruffles, beads, and flounces define Cooper's style. Cooper celebrates individuality and her clothes reflect this philosophy.
Elisabeth and Neville Findlay have been producing fresh shapes in mix-and-match fabric textures for decades and have a worldwide following. Their edgy, modern clothing has a familiar palate, but experimental shapes and materials are both functional and challenging. A skirt may have an irregular hem or a traditionally shaped dress a metallic sheen, but all pieces maintain an inherent wearability.
Up and Coming
For garments as comfortable as they are stylish you can't go wrong with the work of two Pacific design labels that are located slightly outside the city's fashion enclave. Tav and Mena are for women after international clothing with embedded style that can be dressed up and down depending on the country, climate, and time of day.
Tav. Tav uses hand-blocked prints in linen, silk, cashmere, and cotton. You can find her skirts, dresses, and amazing coats in Mt. Eden or on her Web site. 937 Mt. Eden Rd., Mt. Eden, Auckland, 1024. 9/625–7353. www.tavresortwear.com.
Mena. Mena is run by a four sisters who take vibrant color and mix it up with big prints that reference traditional Pacific design. They have a lot of fun with "maxi dresses" that make the most of floaty chiffon while their short flirty party frocks may make you forget your little black dress. Mena's store is in a working class suburb called Onehunga. 275 Onehunga Mall, Onehunga, Auckland, 1061. 9/636–9089. www.mena.co.nz.
tk. Turet Knuefermann is one of New Zealand's young star designers. Her work blends high-European fashion (elegant backless dresses) with a New Zealand sense for practicality (classy, everyday pieces). At her Ponsonby area boutique, tk, she aims for approachable fashion. It all begins complimentary coffee as Brazilian music plays in the background. Rather than sell visitors on "Wow" items that quickly become "Wow, I can't believe I bought that" piles in the back of the closet, Kneufermann seeks to match her designs to the customer, guiding each one to pieces that she'll wear over and over again. You'll be in good company if you do nab a few of her pieces; Kneufermann has been a styling consultant for New Zealand Idol contestants and has several celebrity customers. 50 Brown St., Ponsonby, Auckland. 9/361–2020. www.tk.net.nz.
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