On Wearing New Zealand Brands Abroad – Yes, They Translate

From a cosy vest worn in Copenhagen to an iconic pair of pants hitting their stride in London, here’s how local labels go the distance overseas.

By Jessica-Belle Greer

When I moved to the other side of the world, I was accompanied by four suitcases. First, let me explain myself.

As a former fashion features editor and writer, I was lucky enough to get to know an array of Aotearoa New Zealand designers whose work I admired, and amassed. I’ve always believed our home-grown labels can rival the international style set – they take pride in quality and offer it at a reasonable price (compared to similar brands abroad) while creating strong sense of identity and sustainable policies.

Before my partner and I settled into London life, we took off on a whistle-stop tour of Europe. For our first stop of Copenhagen, a cosy Itchy Knits vest (worn over my always-near Kowtow Classic tee) helped me feel as if I was ‘at home’ while being so very far away. When on my bike, a streamlined Wynn Hamlyn trench fitted in with the other Scandi cyclists, and I managed to keep up with the rather serious pack.

With a newfound appreciation for looking the part, Paris Georgia’s Elemental dresses gave me a sense of confidence, while softening the edge of my comfort zone. The idiosyncratic Ida dress was worn at parties in Berlin, and the chic black Manahou dress (made with ZQ Certified merino wool) was worn without a wrinkle by the time we made it to the Prada Foundation in Milan.

As we moved further South, the temperatures soared. Thankfully, there was nothing my Juliette Hogan Blair jumpsuit in linen rayon couldn’t handle – including a row to the mysterious chapel in the middle of Lake Bled, Slovenia.

In the city of music (and snobbish scoffs) Vienna, I leant into the soft power of Maggie Marilyn’s dresses – and managed to sneak my Kowtow t-shirt under some. Recently, in the also very ornate and proud city of Paris, I decided to dress in striking contrast to my Rococo rendezvous. Still with my Kowtow tee, I wore Maggie Marilyn’s sporting skort and slung a Deadly Ponies cross-body across for some serious artwork spotting and flea market shopping – not even a heatwave could stop me.

Back in (so far) summerless London, the melon Etta coat from Harris Tapper — which I affectionately call James (after he of the giant peach) is a constant. With a cocoon shape, it creates my own personal space bubble on the fast-paced pavements, and I’ve been told it brightens other’s days too. Then, the brand’s matching cashmere set, paired with a snug Loclaire tank top, is a staple when changing from my ‘outside clothes’ (which is a thing over here) to enjoy home comforts.

When coaxing myself to go to the gym, a wool cream Wynn Hamlyn blazer worn over my activewear helps me feel like the People’s Princess – a well-trod style inspiration in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It’s also surprisingly practical for supermarket runs turned lunch dates.

In large cities like London, the tired magazine trope of wearing something that will take you from the boardroom to the bar, for once, has grounds. At a recent networking event for New Zealand businesswomen abroad, Ruby’s Firebird pants were a surefire conversation starter – they are just so wonderful to wear, anywhere they said.

New Zealand fashion labels are created with a level of care that makes sense for a country whose shoppers are not just passing through, and where word of mouth is paramount. For many, there is a sense of duty to our ever-inspiring natural surroundings, which reminds designers not to churn out new collections for the sake of it, but to find their own unique perspective and seasons. Purposeful and polished, our labels offer a world of opportunities to their wearer. Where will they take you?