Twenty-Seven Names

We choose to make in Aotearoa because we place the utmost value on knowing that the people who make our clothes enjoy the same protections as those who wear them.

Our business grew from a friendship, and that friendship began at Karori Normal Primary School. We were introduced to each other in a game of tag. Rachel was a fast runner, I a brilliant hider. A formidable duo. I still remember Rach in her Winnie the Pooh t-shirt, bike shorts and wild short hair – We weren’t to know how that introduction would forever change the course of our lives.

The first time I went to Rachel’s house she sat me down and showed me through her family’s art books. I listened agape as she taught me about impressionism and modern art. I was simultaneously blown away that a 12-year-old knew all of this but somehow had no idea about the East Coast–West Coast beef.

We spent our youth together; think a shared CD subscription, weekly op-shop trawling, Bursary art portfolio sessions, early morning netball, first time on a plane (BDO 2000, lifetime highlight, lost my ticket before I even boarded the plane). I bought a singer sewing machine from the Trade and Exchange when I was 15 – the first thing I made was matching hoodies – baby blue for Rachel, baby pink for me.

Looking for any excuse to leave home we decided to head down to Dunedin where our older brother and sister were both studying. We started working on small and weird projects together while we were studying –found object earrings, spray painted capped sleeve tees, you name it. To me it always seemed like Rachel’s talent had no limits, and I wanted to share her gifts in any way possible. And that’s kinda how we found our way to starting this brand, out of our flat in Dunedin in 2005.

Rachel was in the final year of her Fine Arts degree, majoring in Sculpture, and I had finished my fashion degree the previous year. I was hanging around as her emotional support person and professional walker to-and-from school. Whilst trying to keep myself busy we embarked on our first collection ‘Dog eat Dog’, under the moniker ‘love-lies-bleeding’ – I guess it was an emo time for us.

Heavily influenced by Naomi Klein’s No Logo, the Feminist art movement of the late 80’s, and a drive to spend every waking moment working together, we went for it. After Rachel finished her degree, we relocated back home to Wellington. Got a flat with a big living room, subsisted on canned soup and got to work. The collections that followed, Latchkey children, Cheap Thrills, Smoke and Mirrors, are truly embarrassing to reflect on, but one must start somewhere.

We re-branded as twenty-seven names in 2007 when an American company gained control of international copyright usage of ‘love-lies-bleeding’. We’d moved out of our emo phase by then and were happy to get a chance to pay homage to list of people (27 to be exact) who had tirelessly helped us on our journey to get our brand off the ground. No love was lost. 

We prevailed amidst troubling haircuts, eyebrows, and recessions. Almost 20 years later we’re still here doing what we love – spending time together, making things, working hard at being an independent brand with a moral compass here to provide a worthy alternative in this dog-eat-dog world.

We’re in the business of making clothes. It can feel frivolous to spend your day deep in discussion of where a frill would best serve on a dress, and much has been said (rightfully so) about the outsize role the fashion industry plays in the environmental wellbeing of our planet. But we all (or most of us, anyway) get dressed every day. We can find joy, comfort, freedom, and power in our clothes. So our belief is that if what we’ve chosen to do is make clothes, in the making of those clothes we have a responsibility to make and source with people and the environment in mind.