The New Zealand Fashion Industry And Its Strengths

New Zealand fashion may not conjure up as much hoopla as the big four – Paris, Milan, New York and London. But the untouched world has a lot to offer to the global fashion scene.  Home-grown New Zealand fashion designers such as Karen Walker, Trelise Cooper and Zambesi have made a mark globally and many other budding NZ labels are following suit. Now there are some things that are naturally associated with the country, such as Kiwiana, Traditional NZ greenstone necklaces, Maori art, Kiwis, Pavlova so on and so forth. These aside, the NZ fashion scene is all abuzz with sustainable labels, art jewellery, feminist labels, concept avant-garde stores, heritage brands and much more. We’re rounding up what’s hot in NZ for you!

In no particular order, here are some of the brands that should definitely be on your radar.


Stolen Girlsfriend Club, in 2005, three surfing buddies started the label that at present is stocked in over 13 countries and is fast spreading to the others. The brand describes itself as, a youthful rebellious spirit, with a healthy sense of rumour, with the ability to entertain and empower, and every world of it rings true. If you look at their collections, they have a rock and roll feel to it. Beautiful mesh dresses, rugged leather jackets, punk accessories is what you’ll find on their website. For all the punk heads out there, this brand is right on money.


Zambesi takes great pride in being a home-grown brand, and except for a few pieces that are produced offshore, most of their clothes are made in their Auckland workroom.  The brand was established way back in 1979 by Elisabeth and Neville Findlay. While Elisabeth is focused on womenswear, Designer Dayne Johnston lends his genius to sharply tailored menswear pieces. The aesthetic of the brand is a mix of realism and imagination. Use of contrasting material to create striking pieces that will last forever, is what the brand does brilliantly. They have recently branched out into eyewear as well.  The brand has three flagship stores in Auckland, Wellington and Melbourne. The brand was sported by Lorde and Rihanna, and it’s a great achievement in their kitty.


The category of fine jewellery New Zealand, has a plethora of stunning brands, one such brand is the Company of Strangers founded by Sara Munro in 2008. Her aesthetic can be described as dark but romantic. The brand is a 100% home-grown brand and offers some stunning pieces with very millennial names such as ‘Till Death Do Us Apart Ring’, ‘Promise Stacker’, ‘Divorce Ring’, Pawnshop Ring etc. The clothing pieces are left of the centre with unconventional tailoring. For instance, the ‘Too Fast Dress’ sports a T-shirt sewed on to the side of the dress, the bombers sport uneven hems; these are just a few examples to paint a picture of this brand’s fresh innovative pieces.


Karen Walker is one of NZ’s most celebrated designers abroad. Her designs have been donned by well-known faces such as Alexa Chung, Rihanna, Madonna, Tyra Banks, Liv Tyler etc.. She really set the trail blazing for the NZ fashion scene. She opened her first boutique in 1995, and in the year 1998 showcased her collection at Hong Kong fashion week, and later at New York Fashion week, and was the first Kiwi designer to showcase there. She continues to showcase her work in NY, but lives in NZ. The label offers eyewear, interior pieces, clothing, pet accessories and much more. Her aesthetic is androgynous laced with sharp tailoring. What the label is most well known for is their larger than life eyewear. Her ‘Love Letter’ earrings lets you create your own signature monogram, and she epitomises wearable art jewellery in New Zealand. Such innovative pieces have lead to her winning several accolades such as Top 100 in Business of Fashion’s list and the World Class New Zealand Award.


Dame Trelise Cooper is brand adorned by sexy Hollywood ladies and musicians such as Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta Jones, Miley Cyrus, and Stevie Nicks. Her designs have graced the pages of fashion publications such as Vogue, Marie Claire and InStyle. She even designed clothes for the popular series – ‘Sex and the City’. Her label creates sharply tailored pieces in avant-garde prints and patterns. Along with her luxury line she also has a kid’s line named ‘Little Trelise and a diffusion line called ‘Cooper’. Her first store opened in 1985 and at present has around 10 flagship stores across the globe.


Established by the married couple Denise L’Estrange Corbet and Francis Hooper, the label, ‘World’ is one of New Zealand’s prestigious brands. The label was invited to showcase at the London Fashion Week in the year 1999 and as a proof of their stunning work, was immediately stocked by Selfridges and Liberty’s of London. The duo is trained in fashion;  Denise, through her schooling at London College of Fashion, and Francis, through his working experience with John Galliano and Rei Kawakubo. Their claim to fame was their ‘21st century origami dress’ that drew in the attraction of world media. Their aesthetic is mainly rebellious with immaculate tailoring and usage of luxury fabrics. The accolades bestowed on them however, are far from rebellious. Denise is the first female NZ designer that won the MNZM by the Queen of England and is the only brand to hold a retrospective at the Auckland Museum.

These are a few names that have gained recognition world-wide and has put NZ fashion on the global scene. Many more labels continue to pop up on the scene with some very innovative designs. To name a few, I Love Ugly, Lonely, Commoners, Huffer, Kowtow etc. are some of the relatively newer brands that are doing a fabulous job in keeping the fashion scene in NZ buzzing.

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