If you followed the first quarter of Buy Diary, you know I loved this Dancer print from Kowtow and badly wanted to buy the dress in it, but eventually talked myself down to this top (a great decision, as it turned out, since I love some mixing and matching). I saw another woman wearing it last Wednesday and decided immediately that I wanted to wear it on Friday – then, just for gags, I decided to try and make an entire outfit of New Zealand designers.
I present to you a degree of success. My earrings are Gorman (not Kiwi) and my shoes are from Next via Savemart. I certainly have earrings that would have kept me on theme, but these ones fit the look the best. Y’all know my Pedro’s Bluff Peregrine Crossbody by now, and in addition to my Kowtow top I’m wearing a coat from Lonely Label, and pre-loved jeans from Workshop. I wish I knew how old these jeans are – they seemed to be unworn when I bought them, but their slightly flared cut suggests they aren’t particularly recent. I would have pushed someone out of the way for these jeans in 2001, is all I’m saying.
I love all of these items and they’ll be safe in my wardrobe for a long, long time. I have vintage dresses dating back half a century, all designed and made in New Zealand. I love the history, I love thinking about the women who bought those clothes (or had them made), and who wore them, and where they went in them and what their lives were like. It’s fair to say that there’s a developing section in my wardrobe called “things that are special and need to be looked after”, and it’s that attitude to New Zealand fashion that is why I own so many books on New Zealand’s history of fashion (sorry Mum – I fully also “borrowed” one from her last time I was home and I have little intention of returning it any time soon).
For a small, relatively isolated country, we punch well above our weight. I’ve been following iD Dunedin Fashion Week this past week, and it’s fantastic to see the degree of creativity and skill coming out of New Zealand designers participating in that event. That’s why I get worried when I hear about changes in the fashion industry in New Zealand that make it harder and harder to be a designer here – from retailers failing to pay bills on time, to fabric wholesalers closing down their apparel supply. The reality is that most New Zealand designers are killing themselves to make things they think are worthwhile. They’re business managers, web designers, deal negotiators, HR specialists, IT support, cleaning staff, receptionists, PR representatives and that’s just in their own businesses – on top of designing, making, and in many instances, working a second “real” job.
You have to have a real passion and tenacity to be a designer in New Zealand, so every time I see something designed and made in New Zealand I think about the huge effort that’s gone into making that thing exist. But I also think about all those names in those books, and the customers that supported those brands and those creative people. They carved out a language of fashion that is all our own, and which our current generation of designers builds on with every year. Part of buying New Zealand fashion is making an investment in the history of fashion, of betting on our fashion industry and its continuing evolution.
To paragraph the famous words of Tina Fey in the highly intellectual film Mean Girls - I'm a pusher. I push New Zealand fashion. Not because it's "nice" to support other Kiwis, not out of some kind of patriotism, but because it's bloody good stuff and it doesn't exist for fun. It exists so that we can buy it, which means we can buy something that represents us. And if you're thinking "I'd never wear that Megan", the great news is that there's literally hundreds of small to medium New Zealand designers, so somebody somewhere is making something you like (if you're surprised by that number, please know that it's real. I've researched).
It gives me real pleasure to see the slow growth of New Zealand design in my wardrobe, be it new or pre-loved, and I feel like I'm building my own wee archive. It's not a very good archive, since you're probably not supposed to wear the things you have archived and then crouch in a puddle, and also I have no other archival skills. However, it won't stop me from attempting to keep this coat for 40 years so that someone else can love it as much as I do now (just like the vintage coats in my wardrobe). Maybe those future women will think about who owned this coat, too.