Book review: New Zealand Fashion Design

New Zealand Fashion Design

New Zealand Fashion Design

By Angela Lassig (Te Papa Press, 2010) $120 Buy@Fishpond

Ideally New Zealand Fashion Design should be on display rather than wedged into your bookshelf, even though the hardcover 528-page tome is pretty hefty for a coffee table book. It’s worth the risk to your furniture, as the ruffled pink WORLD party frock on the cover is only the beginning of the hundreds of gorgeous garments—from the classic to the crazy—you’ll find inside, and the striking photography and clean layout more than do them justice.

But like good fashion design (which as you’ll learn is a complex business), this book is about more than just the aesthetics. Alongside the full professional index and recommended reading lists, a potted history covers the past 30 years of local design industry focusing on the pivotal moment Kiwi fashion surely arrived: London Fashion Week in 1999.

Te Papa senior curator Angela Lassig interviews 25 top Kiwi designers, kicking off with Marilyn Sainty, covering in comprehensive detail their backgrounds and career paths. Did you know when Beth Ellery was a child her mother sat her on her knee and let her think she could control the sewing machine with her mind? With that belief, how could you not grow up to create your own label? And it seems strangely logical that it was disco music that brought Denise L'Estrange-Corbet and Francis Hooper together.

With archival snapshots and images of vintage pieces, magazine covers, advertising material, catwalk moments and even, in the case of Kate Sylvester, the paper dolls she dressed as a girl in the 70s, New Zealand Fashion Design traces the lives of each designer as they share their stories of luck, love, talent, inspiration and hard graft.

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