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Working Style’s rebellious spirit

With its sprawling angles, igloo-shaped white plaster, and signature circular turret, Athfield House looks like a shipwreck from some distant Mediterranean island. The first major project from Ian Athfield (later Sir Ian), it was built as his house and studio, and initially many people considered it an eyesore.

But like the vilified Eiffel Tower before it, Athfield House has become one of the most recognisable buildings in New Zealand architecture; a unique building from a man whose work both offended and inspired.

Working Style founder and director Chris Dobbs says the team chose Athfield House for its “rebellious spirit”, and the way a “wild creation evolved into a timeless classic”.

“When I grew up in Wellington, this was a really weird building,” Dobbs says. “It was controversial. And now, it’s very much a part of the Wellington landscape. That’s true heritage.”

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Dobbs started Working Style 28 years ago, selling made-to-measure shirts door-to-door (and office-to-office), before branching out into suiting and then casualwear. It is now one of New Zealand’s longest-running made-to-measure menswear brands.

The Athfield House campaign, shot by Mark Smith and styled collectively by the Working Style team, is the second of an on-going series of Working Style shoots photographed in iconic New Zealand buildings. The first, for the Winter 2015 collection, was shot in Auckland’s recently reopened St James Theatre.

Working Style will also be releasing an online video of the photo shoot as part of the company’s expanding digital marketing strategy, which is spreading the brand to new customers over social media. A recent video, shot at a private airport north of Auckland to promote Working Style’s summer wedding line, has reached more than 650,000 people.

Dobbs says Athfield began work on his eponymous building 50 years ago, and it remains a work in progress, despite his death in January this year.

“It’s his life’s work, so it’s a real privilege to be part of that,” says Dobbs. “And I’ve been doing this for 28 years. It’s my life’s work as well.”

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