Speaker by Various Artists

The circus comes to town

by Jennifer Jones

Mother Teresa and I have been having a ball. L'Oreal New Zealand Fashion Week began on Sunday and continues officially until the end of Thursday in the Town Hall and Aotea Square, with an open to the public Newmarket Fashion Friday (inexplicably NOT in Newmarket) taking over the area that day. Mother Teresa's here because on Monday morning I was given a SIGN which would have been rude to ignore - especially when she was officially beatified on Fashion Week's first day.
While parking the car a wee postcard propped up against a pillar caught my eye. It was Mother Teresa of Kolkata and on the back a number of her more inspirational sayings:

"Give until it hurts, with a smile... If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are."

It seemed somehow appropriate to bring her along. A pack of ferocious fashionistas is not my idea of a good time and I felt I could do with some back-up.

In fact it turns out the general consensus is that this is one of the nicer events in the Australasian fashion calendar. Particularly this year, the event's third. It seems to have found its feet. The Powder Room is full of friendly faces and even the overseas guests have toned down the fashometer and are manicuring, facialing, imbibing and generally mixing in. Kerre Woodham and a whole horde of homespun Kiwis are making a convivial atmosphere up in what could otherwise be a rather unfriendly, ultramodern L'Oreal-themed space.

It reminds me of hopping on an Air New Zealand plane in London or LA when you've been away from home for a while. Feels New Zealandy. Comfy and familiar and a little unsophisticated in the midst of international glitz & glam. In my current beatific state I'm seeing links to pioneer women making an unfamiliar landscape their own and the CWI get-togethers of old, where newcomers bought a plate and were instantly in. This morning there was even some number 8 wire up there with Kerre on the red lips-shaped sofa. Nicholas Blanchet's architectural collection has loopy wire necklaces, metal fastenings & tall buildings. Nick's had a crash course in metallurgy this week - making the wire thing work, he tells Kerre.
The shows have been mixed affairs. Musically there's been a lot of 80's synth music and retro leanings, contrasting a little strangely with George FM who are busy pumping modern house sounds throughout the public areas. Best music so far was courtesy of King Kapisi live on the mic for his own Overstayer collection. Zambesi took the ultra-loud industrial noise road with Rammstein and EVERYBODY's done Lou Reed.

Some of the less established designers chose NZ artists - dubby Rhombus for Insidious Fix and Dimmer's "I believe you are a star" for Catch which worked well with their Lunar themed show.
Shows are split between the Great Hall and the Max Marquee, with the bigger guns & most of the group shows getting the bigger production specs in the Town Hall. The Marquee provides comfy dark intimacy and somehow feels more fun. The models are less experienced in there though and the clothes are not always shown at their best.
Some figures: Apparel exports are worth $260 million a year, add footwear & textiles in and you get another $95 million. 62% of NZ's apparel exports go to Australia and 16% to the USA. This year at Fashion Week there are 140 models, 97 hairdressers, 36 makeup artists and 15 stylists. There are over 40 designers showing collections and over 50 exhibitors with stands. It's big business.

The 140 models are mostly stick thin and dark haired. Barbara Lee's show got a lot of coverage with Nikki Watson, looking tanned and boob-some, in her centerpiece dress of red satin & feathers. Nikki looked rather out of place. A little bit of LA via Treasure Island inside our Air NZ cocoon. This afternoon there's more LA in town. Cindy Taylor from E! TV is modelling in the IPG/IPB show. She's here filing reports for "Wild On" and my friend Mike is her local cameraman.
So yep, every day has been filled with Celebrity! and Glamour! I've made a point of talking to everyone I sit with and so far have met buyers from Melbourne & Mapua amongst others. Also Laura the PA to Fashion Week's special guest Cosmo Jenks who I am assured is a real live London It-Girl as well as being Jay Kay's milliner. Laura is keeping her end of the bargain and wears a new Cosmo Jenks hat each show. We're on air kissing terms now. Being a PA means telling me as soon as we've shaken hands that Cosmo LOVED World's show and that the opening ceremony made her cry. Then there's Nathan Kake who is NZ's version of the Queer Eye beauty guy, he does fashion disaster makeovers on Good Morning every Thursday and performed miracles on me in The Powder Room as well.
Well this afternoon the tanned Nikki Watson suddenly made sense and upstaged Miss E! TV. After a dramatic opening number featuring drag queen Bambi smoking and lip-synching Roni Size's "The Jackal" at the same time, the IPG/IPB show went body baring crazy. And there was Nikki flanked by African Warriors looking just about perfect in a diamante bikini. "It began in Afrika ka ka ka," blared the Chemical Brothers. Turet

from IPG/IPB is most definitely our version of Donatella Versace. The crowd loved it. Cindy with her lion mane of hair looked non-plussed and must have been wondering why she was there. Still, having 400 million viewers must help you feel worthwhile. And as a last resort there’s always the fabulous Nathan & one of his Good Morning makeovers.