What I learnt at New Zealand Fashion Week 2017

Bernadette Casey – Creative Director, The Formary

Last week New Zealand fashion brands strutted out their latest creations at New Zealand Fashion Week which sits at the glamorous opposite end of the fashion spectrum to The Formary, which hangs out with the no longer loved, end-of-life clothing. Undaunted by the distance on this spectrum, this year I decided to get myself to Auckland and attend a few shows, tickets for which had been kindly supplied by the young and uber talented Seb_Hunt Creative Director for Stolen Girlfriends show and who has been recently snaffled up by Kanye West’s clothing brand Yeezy.

Stolen Girlfriends Club show

A lean-lifestyler, I had in the first 7 months of the year only purchased a jump suit and a pair of running shorts, my eclectic packing included not just my ‘new this year’ jumpsuit but also an 8 year old Carlson trench and a 20 year old Marilyn Sainty skirt. I panicked at my lack of ‘current’ attire and brought a Nom D dress to be on the safe side, brand spanking new and pristine white.

Li Edelkoort, legendary trend forecaster laments that as the wider world has evolved, fashion has lagged behind, “Fashion is old-fashioned,” she says. “It is no longer part of the avant garde”.  Observing that what once was fashion has turned into garment consumption, with an estimated 80 billion units of clothing produced annually, it’s hard to argue with her. Exploitive, cruel and even deadly situations within the garment industry are unacceptable and recent documentaries like The True Cost are shining the light on these terrible circumstances.

I find myself in a moral dilemma, loving the creativity of fashion, the beautiful fabrics and craftsmanship involved – but not the industry itself. Recently published articles  and social media posts suggest opting for ‘Materialism over Consumerism’ a rallying call for investing in higher quality products with the assumption they will last longer.  Slowing down our consumption of everything is a necessity, we are already consuming more resources than the world can sustain. Earth Overshoot Day http://www.overshootday.org/ measures how much of the earth’s resources we are consuming in comparison to population, alarmingly according to their calculation we overshot our annual ecological resource allocation for this year on August 2nd, 2017. Consuming our annual resources in 7 months instead of 12, leaving a 5 month deficit.

Michael Cohen in his 2013 paper “Collective dissonance and the transition to post- consumerism” illustrates how society has progressed through a number of different economic models over time, from agrarianism to industrialisation to the current macro-economic model of consumerism. This consumerist model cannot be sustained, it’s need for unrelenting growth cannot be supported in a finite system like earth with its biophysical limits. Cohen proposes we are now transitioning into a post-consumerism era.

This new era has attracted several names, the ‘bonding economy’ and the ‘sharing economy’ where value is not the preserve of shareholders but is more widely distributed out into communities. And at Fashion Week the World label provided a great example of this business – community connection by providing the 600 invited guests Eat My Lunch Lunchboxes, which in turn also feed 600 under privileged New Zealand children (and hopefully inspired others to do the same).

Eat My Lunch lunchbox @World

Kate Sylvester took a minimalist approach scorning goody bags full of tat in favour of a simple origami paper bird. Simplicity and elegance, no sample size plastic bottles of products you are unlikely to use, no more branded drink bottles or plastic wrapped whatever that you are going to ditch in the hotel rubbish bin by morning.

Kate Sylvester show

At the close of Fashion Week I can’t deny I had a great time rubbing shoulders with the who’s who and drinking vodka cocktails. While the industry as-a-whole is a laggard and needs to be dragged (no doubt kicking and screaming) into the 21st century. The fashion shows themselves are a mix of great craftsmanship (from the yarn makers, the weavers, dyers, designers and seamstresses) and live theatre (from the creative directors, stylists and behind the scene teams) sometimes the theatre is provided by the audience themselves (like when the artist Mr Reynolds was bounced out of the World show by security)

World show

The importance of what we wear and how we dress has never, and I feel bold enough to say, will never be diminished. Clothes hold great symbolic, social and cultural meaning. I am hopeful that as awareness grows of the negative social and environmental impacts of garment consumption that we will lean towards loving and treasuring our clothes, not just for the powerful form of self-expression that they are, but also for the craftsmanship that goes into their creation which was so apparent at NZ Fashion Week.

World show



Li Edelkoort Anti-Fashion Manifesto. https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/voices-video/video-li-edelkoort-reads-her-anti-fashion-manifesto

Eat My Lunch