Once a symbol of abject terror, the death’s head sprawled across centuries in a way few other symbols managed to achieve. It has been used with great potency for everything from Prussian military uniforms to warnings on tins of poison. But today, it’s quite jolly. It has shed much of its ghastly psychic weight, and it is simply there to be used with freedom and irony.

Here is the new death’s head, studded as little nuggets of decoration on a clutch bag from Kilt, 100 Victoria Street, Wellington. Admittedly it’s an edgy accessory, and the arrangement of skulls over a yellow vinyl background is elite kitsch.
Now, off to find a matching cocktail.

The Silk Princess

The gown is called ‘Imperial Princess’ and it is from Sophie Voon’s bridal collection. The use of the word Imperial easily evokes a world of Chinese silk merchants trading with a Czarist-Hapsburg nobility of Middle Europe. It is quite different to the more Western white of gauze, lace, trains and veils.
The material is dupion silk – the weaving of silk from multiple cocoons. This lends a textured feel to the fabric where the manufacturing doesn’t try to smooth out the small knots and tangles as the thread is drawn.

The embroidery is done with very fine threads allowing subtle graduations of colour. The thread’s slenderness also allows for a calligraphic presentation of tendrils and stalks from which burst the flower heads.
With such features, the material excludes anything other than a styling done along clean lines. Voon works the material with great poise and a satisfying lack of clamour. The only imposed piece of shaping are the stays giving volume to the bodice – a smiling, backwards glance at the centuries of suffocating, complicated bone corsetry.

The belt is also dupion silk, in a fresh bamboo green, finely ruched for texture, and fastened at the back with giant pearlescent spheres.
‘Imperial Princess’ is just one of the items in the collection. Browsing through the look book is like opening doors along a corridor of pretty, made so much more delicious by having the garments modelled and photographed in imaginative settings.

From Paris, with love

From long-established design house Lanvin comes this startling accessory; a collar. The material is a wool-cotton mix, weaved in such a way it feels and looks like felt. It is cut like felt, and at the edges it gently frays into whispers of fuzz. The colour is a rather arresting violet, yet as a background for the jewels, it works fantastically.

The jewels are glass, cut and bevelled with gem precision. Their arrangement around the collar is homage to Art Deco jewellery designs of the 1930s where sinuous lines, threads, beadwork and syncopated loops come out to play.
The work is from New Zealand designer Frances Howie who won the world’s most sought-after student design prize – the Smirnoff –in 2001. She later joined Lanvin’s head designer, Alber Elbaz, as part of his small team and it was within this atelier that the work was created.

The collar rests on a jacket from Dries Van Noten where fine metal thread drawn through silk leads the eye into a spangled, shimmering atmosphere.
The items are at Scotties, 4 Blair Street, Wellington.

Little Black Dress

In December 2010, Alexandra Owen unveiled her sub-collection ‘Little Black Dress’. It is a delicious journey into a noir theme-and-variation story line. If it were music, it would be in the key of B Minor. The collection comprises four main themes, with the variations being in fabric weights, sleeved or sleeveless, day or night styling, and textures ranging from rich plush through to finely-embossed cotton-viscose panels. They are lined with taffeta resembling sweeps of striped watered silk.

The launch was held in Owen’s showroom at 253 Wakefield Street, early in the evening. Inquisitive, late sunlight streamed through the windows to highlight the four models Owen had styled for the event. At first sight they appeared like mannequins, but then they meandered and grouped among the guests and thus the sculptured spirit of the collection became apparent. The use of accessories was imaginative. Certainly they looked back to a 1920s haute-couture, but this collection is strong enough to invite such seasoning.

 Owen’s sense of drama was further complemented by the finely-graduated use of MAC cosmetics, propelling the models into the realm of screen sirens. And the coiffure work, courtesy of Michael Beel, was a superb playtime in the decades of finger curls and bobs.
The Little Black Dress collection was not so much put on display, as held court.

3 Wise Men

Craft of construction and superb colour matching describe so much of the offerings at 3 Wise Men at 195 Lambton Quay, Wellington. The ties are like long works of art, sometimes mellow and attractive in the manner of a dessert, other times strong with dark backgrounds shot through with bolts of brilliant colour.

In this slightly undercover photo – perhaps taken by a spy – the ties flank a glass jar full of cufflinks. These are cufflinks done in knotted cord, rather than the more familiar metal. They are like fanciful toggles, great works of knotsmanship, and are individually packaged.

From Oslo to Wellington

The Scandinavian designer Henrik Vibskov is one of those rare polymaths who stride across many disciplines – clothes design, installation art, music, and the production of limited edition books. A graduate of St Martin’s in London, his main retail outlets are in Oslo and Copenhagen, and his shows introduce their audiences to dazzling concoctions of big colour patches, fur, quilting and knitwear with curious collection names like ‘Land of the Black Carrots’ and the ‘Fantabulous Bicycle Music Factory’.

It is seldom his works travel the thousands of kilometres to New Zealand, yet one outlet, the Good as Gold boutique at 140 Victoria Street, Wellington, under the helmsman ship of Ruben Bryant, has come to stock some of Vibskov’s work.

The photo shows one of the items from the collection titled ‘The Slippery Spiral Situation’. It is a wonderful work of big wool knitwear, basking in the theatrical design voyage of oatmeal colour at the top to night-black at the hem. And, like little tufts, or snagged seed pods, miniature balls of white wool parade themselves all over the garment.

The I-can’t-take-my-eyes-off-you-pink shoe is from Nude of Australia. It’s glossy, bold, and might not take no for an answer. Its companions, a little calmer with their watercolour patterns done in pared-back hues are also from Nude, and both are at Ultra Shoes in Manners Mall.
Dotted along the display shelves are young plastic trees in black pots. These are mini-reminders that Ultra supports Project Crimson where a percentage of sales goes to the protection of the country’s pohutukawa and rata trees.

Massey Unzips

At the end of four years study for Massey University’s Bachelor of Design in Fashion comes the sadly brief, but rewarding glitter of a catwalk show. This year’s show was titled UnZipped and was crisply performed with great lighting and an excellent variety of music.

The work of 54 students, each presenting four ensembles, was sent out along the catwalk for a very interested public and media viewing. And there were, of course, 54 different takes on clothing, textures, materials and underlying spirits. On view were inspirations from Dada art, 1960s retro, the Mordor-doom scenario, culture-specific motifs and the animal kingdom. Materials ranged from the luxuriously silky through to big-knit wool, bamboo, PVC and unnervingly delicate crystals.

As a show, it was sparky and rapid-fire. Yet, wistfully, one ponders what will happen to all this work so exhaustively produced. Pieces might be taken apart, perhaps boxed up, or given away to admirers. Whichever outcomes transpire, the show is certainly a high peak in the university’s curriculum.
The photo shows the four ensembles presented by Emma Hewson under the collection name ‘NightSwimming’.

Kate Sylvester dresses up

The top is the ‘Roberta Dinner Shirt’. It is cotton, but given a wealth of finery which enlivens it. Old-fashioned lace techniques of thread-pulling coupled with very fine pin-tucking, back-stitching and steel rivets makes this a delicious work of art, yet supple and comfortable.

The dress is the ‘Harmony Skirt’, done in a colour Sylvester calls Summer Grey. An astonishing amount of careful stitching has enabled all the bands of fabric and shimmering gauze to layer and fall without any awkwardness, while a cotton lining performs the task of soft scaffolding. The skirt, even with the smallest movement, glistens and easily suggests something impressionistic, something painterly.

It could be a ‘Moon over Mudflats’ painting, or a photo of city lights taken through a windscreen in the rain. The illustration comes from the designer’s Summer 10/11 look book, and the garments are at Kate Sylvester, 32 Cuba Street.

Coming to an arrangement with World Man

From World comes a range of men’s clothing of great architecture and finish. The range nicely avoids being dour, and with subtle detailing and flicks of colour, talks of poise.

The shirt on the obliging mannequin is called ‘Hills Alive’ – robust cotton, with brilliant orange buttons against clean stripes of blue. Over the shirt is the ‘Friedrich Jacket’ – done in a fine-knit wool in tones of charcoal and mushroom. Across the breast is embroidered, in silver thread, the word MAN in a fascinating cross between typography and seismic charts.

And the trousers are ‘Hills Alive’ shorts – worked in a heavy waxed cotton, given a few splashes resembling bleach spots, and secretly lined inside with panels of enchanting print depicting lots of little houses.
World Man’s clothes are both garments, as well as voyages into the stylish.

Spotted at Kilt, 100 Victoria Street, is this ‘Ruffle Clutch’ bag. It is a big, bold, squishy, synthetic piece of fun accessory. And it comes in a number of unusual pastel colours like sunset-yellow, mocha-brown, and powdery-pink.

Lost in a world of soft gold

It is called the ‘Love Dress’.
It is from the Alexandra Owen 2010/11 collection.
And it is magic.
The fabric is sand-washed silk; the silk being tumbled with small stones to give it a brushed and slightly chalky feel. This treatment, coupled with the serendipitous colour, gives the fabric a fascinating appeal; not unlike the secret gleam of ancient gold artifacts in a museum.

The architecture and styling of the dress pays tribute to the 1930s-40s spirit of two-part assembly: a fitting bodice with a swooping skirt. The bodice, through ingenious stitching and gathering, has a wonderful complexity of volumes and horizontal accents, while the skirt is a pure waterfall of drapery. It is the sheer amount of fabric that allows this luxurious drop – the rolled hemline actually travels 9m in circumference.

Inside the dress is a cotton lining for strength and comfort. And while unseen, it further carries the theme of finesse with its Paisley patterning which is flecked with bronze and burnt Sienna sparkles.
The ‘Love Dress’ is at Alexandra Owen, 253 Wakefield Street, Wellington.

Meet Virginia Heel, the shoe

One of the memorable 2010 Fashion Week shows was the exhibition of shoes by Kathryn Wilson. It was a walk-past of excellently crafted and often humorous designs where the audience focus was unequivocally on the shoes as the stage was set 1.2 metres higher than usual. And being a catwalk, the audience could see the shoes actually performing – not always evident from a static display.

Kathryn Wilson’s show was a milestone for her brand which had been launched seven years prior, and before this, of course, were years of training. Part of her overseas training was done in Nottingham whose heritage of fabric manufacturing combined with access to many of the world’s leading practitioners of design and construction, made study there very sought after.

Such training, which included detailed study of where to source materials, is evident in this design –the Virginia Heel – performed in a ladder of cafe-au-lait, tan and black leather straps. Everything is cleanly worked: the stitching, the precision cutting, the folding under and curling over. Virginia Heel, part of Wilson’s 2010 range, is at MP (formerly Maggie Potter), 100 Willis Street, Wellington.

A Field of Triangles

With cotton being one of the world’s biggest crops, it is so easy to look away from the sheer weight of insecticides used in its growing, the dismal pay received by so many people in the industry, and the toxicity of the chemicals used for bleaching and colouring. Such things are modern responses to a colossal demand for the material, yet they are not universally viewed as safe or reasonable. The Wellington design house of Kowtow, run by Gosia Piatek, bases its cotton procurement on the principles of organic growing, fair trade guidelines, dyes which avoid poisonous effluent, and a packaging-shipping model leaving minimal waste.

Within this commercial paradigm, Kowtow produces garment which satisfy a growing consciousness, but without being strident. Each garment comes with a tiny booklet simply outlining how they operate, and lets the customer decide how they feel. The photo shows one of Kowtow’s arrestingly graphic T-shirts called the ‘Yelena Tee’. The original artwork is by Wellington artist Yelena Barbalich, one of a community of ‘outsider’ artists.

It is the intensity and volume of lines which catapults the artwork, and the resulting garment, into the orbit of stunning. Here we have a full blast of imagination in which we might see fishing nets, or Polynesian navigation lines, or modern architectural metalwork. Kowtow shows how a business model of fairness and a flair for the inventive can co-exist, and perform well.

Some Art from Starfish

Greatly applauded, particularly after his death, is the work of New Zealand artist Len Lye whose sculptures stir with energy and noise, dazzle with shimmer and sensuous movement, and humour with eccentric titles. It was Lye’s spirit and body of work which captivated Laurie Foon, designer and owner of Starfish at 128 Willis Street, Wellington, to pay him homage in her Summer 10/11 collection. The collection is titled Free Radicals and all the pieces carry the sorts of names which Lye would have smiled at : the ‘Honey I’m Home’ dress, the ‘Jumping Jacket’, the ‘Twitching Tee’, ‘Full Fathom Frock’, ‘Twister Pants’ and the ‘Can’t Stop Corset’.

Additional reference to Lye has been made by the use of coloured ribbons to decorate the shop as well as for the backgrounds in the lookbook. In this photo, the top is the ‘Boggle Blouse’ – a feather-light work of printed silk so sheer and fine, it’s like a pattern shown through a slide projector. Under it is the ‘Tip Top Tee’ of fine, comfortable merino knit. And the skirt is the ‘Fidget Skirt’, made from a linen-viscose mix with a hint of spandex to give it flexibility. It is an attractive charcoal colour, and its side panels have just the right amount of gathering to make the fabric ripple. The effect is like a receding tide playing with lines of beach sand – the sea practising its own signature perhaps – and we can gaze at it for minutes on end.

The Long Gallery

Inside the Museum Hotel at 110 Wakefield Street, Wellington, the art collection, excellent lighting, and wall finishings are nothing short of enveloping. The theme of the hotel is obviously art, and this has been given additional emphasis by the construction of the Long Gallery. This is like a glazed conservatory, built onto an outside wall, and facing the parking area with all its traffic of arrival and departure. It is a bold piece of architectural placement, something you’d hardly expect in a car park, yet within this enclosure is room for the creative display of art and artifacts.

The Long Gallery’s first exhibition is a collection of creations from past World of Wearable Art shows. In many respects, this collection is a tribute to the effort put in by the WOW exhibitors. It appreciates that the entries don’t necessarily get lost to view after the show has finished. The photo shows the extravagant ‘Montana Duck’ of 1997 by Auckland designer Susan Holmes. This is a work of swooping, feathery panels done in painted silk stretched over thin wooden canes; all connected to huge shoulder constructions made from recycled cane baskets. It is engineering, and costume, and heart-warmingly improbable.

Looking in from outside

    With over 350 outlets worldwide, the Karen Walker empire produces clothes, jewellery and eyewear with a sureness of touch and purring invention. One of its many design spirits is the mixing of luxury and non-luxury materials in a manner that can be curious and invites the fingers to test what the eye is seeing.
    This dress, spotlit and impressive in the window like an old sailing-ship figurehead, is called Ruffle Bib. The material is linen hessian – a non-luxury material which might make many think of wallpaper scrim, but here it is fine weave and supple to the touch. It also carries the faint, honest smell of linen prior to treatment which normally obliterates any odour. The linen’s modelling into large ruffles suits the spirit of the fabric perfectly. And, bordering these ruffles like exacting lines of ink, are ribbons of rich black cotton.
    Karen Walker is at 126 Wakefield Street, Wellington.


    As one of the lead-ups to the World of Wearable Art show, a number of shops throughout the city have created or  borrowed fantastic garments to exhibit in their windows. Behind the idea is a ‘mini competition’ with prizes and advertising opportunity, but for the passer-by, it’s like a rather welcome entrapment.
    This intense, swirling fabrication done in flax linen and dyed sea-grass is part of designer Andrea Clinton’s “Octavia Chiton” entry in the 2001 avant garde section of the show. The inspiration for the work came from the convoluted details of the chiton sea creature — sometimes called the ‘coat-of-mail shell’.
    Octavia Chiton is resident, for a while, at the boutique Identity at 41 Willis Street, Wellington.

A Breeze Blows Through It

    The label WORLD describes itself as a factory of ideas and within their Summer 10/11 collection is this work of breezy, dream-coloured design. The dress is called ‘17 Again, Batwing’. It is, above all, a work of delicious fabric which, when worn, can flow and twirl without the restraints of intricate stitching.
    The fabric has a background and a foreground. The background is a black gauze with tiny flecks of silver shot through it. Laid onto this is the foreground of motifs like tree roots, tresses of hair and huge blooms done in brilliant colours. It is a proud, confident dress; like a rich stage-set you can carry around with you. It features at WORLD, 84 Victoria Street, Wellington.

Ziera: An Exercise in Rebranding

    Some fifty years ago, a shoe shop opened in Hamilton called Mervyn Adams. It was established to promote and sell shoes that were based on the architecture of orthotics. It soon came to have a nationwide presence, then was rebranded as Kumfs. Under this label it established overseas branches.
    Within the past few months, Kumfs has been rebranded as Ziera Shoes. Underpinning the rebranding is the continuing attention to orthotic comfort, but overlaid onto this are crisp, fresh styles, colour matching and thoughtful detailing. The rebranding has also included shop makeovers to present the stock in a light, uncluttered atmosphere. One motif in this rebranding is the use of a peaceful green colour running through the interior decoration. Other motifs include the butterfly and the stylised orchid bloom.
    The photo shows a corner of the Wellington shop at 83 Willis Street where a comment board is part of the ‘welcoming initiative’. The board is a gesture of politeness firmly announcing rebranding doesn’t have to mean alienating an existing clientele. One of the comments – Mmmm Zesty – seems to sum the project up nicely.

Blue, reversible

    KILT, the Hawkes Bay design house, revels in producing a wide range of garments and releasing them quietly onto the market. They don’t work in seasonal ranges and as they have six outlets, there is opportunity to present their flavours and crafting to a wide audience.
    Shown here is their cameo jacket, produced in bold, tasty colours like red, black, and the royal blue of this one.
    The lining is a cotton tartan – the lines and threads of the design being mute and subtle, and not necessarily identifiable as belonging to any one particular clan. The outer material is a cotton drill, sturdy enough to allow the details of gathering to maintain a sculptural form. The jacket is reversible, so when the tartan is on the outside, the blue becomes a rich garnish around the edges. All in all, a bold and lovable garment available from Kilt at 100 Victoria Street, Wellington.

What the merino never saw coming

    Up in the high country of the South Island, thousands of merino sheep give up their fleeces for the making of fabrics and garments. The fleece is spun into yarns of different gauge, then woven into bolts, some of which will be dyed to present a range of colours.
    A portion of this material makes its way to Takaka-based design workshop Timeless Creations, and under the label Maurice, produces a range of merino knitwear as well as merino felt. Timeless Creations is the proud owner of an eighty-year old derelict German knitting machine, rescued and restored for years of further use. It is also fortunate in Takaka for having access to particularly pure water which is heated for the felt-making process.
    Timeless Creations is the supplier of coloured felt to Nelson-based designer TinaVJ who is the creator of this brilliant, bold coat. TinaVJ’s love of typography and 3D design is apparent in her masterful composition of colour patches and stripes, interlocking panels and the use of big textural motifs which has led her to experiment with her own methods of felt shaping. The robust stitching and playful elements give a sense of daring, yet handled authoritatively.
    The coats and tunics of TinaVJ are represented by Aquamerino at 97 Willis Street, Wellington. This shop also acts as a showcase for Timeless Creations, as well as the fine-strand merino garments of Aquamerino’s own design and production house.
    From the shearing shed to the swing-ticket is a great journey, if a journey we can hardly imagine the merino ever had in mind.

Shoe Craft

    The shoe design house Chaos and Harmony have released their Summer 2010/11 collection, full of sculpture and colouring. The collection goes under the name ‘Between you, me and the fencepost...’ and within this story line, like its own chapter, are three shoes titled ‘Fallen’.
    The shoe illustrated is called ‘Fallen-Blue Drop’ and is a work of superb peacock-feather motifs done in textured leather with sparkling blues and iridescence. It rests on a deep, cobalt-blue heel.
    The full collection numbers eighteen different designs, although it is just the ‘Fallen’ range which has the addition of cord running around the top; an almost country-like detail imposed on something very urban. It is this sort of juxtaposition and fun which makes Chaos and Harmony well worth following.
    Chaos and Harmony is stocked by Ultra Shoes at 55 Manners Mall, Wellington; a shop known for its adventurous stock and its willingness to supply finishing touches to many a photo shoot over the years.

Just the right green

The jacket is called ‘Green is Good’. It is made from 100% silk velvet and thus feels luxurious to the touch in a way that synthetic velvet cannot approach. It shimmers in any light and broadcasts a depth of contrast. It is from the label Hale Van Traa, a collaboration of designers Chris Hale and Justine Van Traa, and reflects their spirit of sourcing materials which  have appeal and presence.

Under the embrace of the coat is a dress called ‘Frill Me Again’ – another item from Hale Van Traa which entrances with its multiple layers and its light, breezy fabric patterned like some fascinating sea shell.

Hale Van Traa is stocked by the shop Goodness at 19 College Street in Wellington, and 131 Jackson Street in Petone.
‘Green is Good’ leads the charge for the new season’s offerings from Hale Van Traa.

Some textures at Voon

    Voon, at 142 Willis Street, is like a soft, warm grotto full of gorgeous textures, calming colours and sparkling creations.
    Draped over the front of the obliging mannequin is a belt, bold with five pearls, derived in spirit from the obi belts used to fix kimono. It is encrusted with metal threads and deep colouring – a glimmer-world of intense design to spend some time with. Beyond the belt, the delicate lace of a bolero jacket is weighted with swoops and patterns of gemstone-pink beads from a range designer Sophie Voon calls Vintage Blush.

A Shop Called Swonderful

    For a meander into the realm of fabrics, graphics and garments which hint at what was top style from a few decades ago, Swonderful at 95 Victoria Street is an ideal port of call. The name of the shop is a song title from the film Funny Face, and it sums up the zesty thinking behind the items for sale. Like so many enterprises it began as a market stall but then  transformed itself into a shop in late 2008 under the navigation of mother and daughter partnership Frances and Virginia McMullen. Stock comes from a number of designers who work away with great passion but do not necessarily possess the big machinery of marketing and seasonal ranges which typify larger design houses.
    One such offering is a range of hand-warming muffs with their brilliant satin bows from the label Bettie Sue Boutique. These muffs take us back to a time of Edwardian opening nights at the theatre, or perhaps a portrait of a family about to go off to a morning service in a cold church.
    Swonderful is also the retail showcase for the partners’ own label, Papercup. Papercup explores a range of fabrics, cuts, patterns and graphics and effortlessly creates what it finds attractive, Over the shoulders of one mannequin may be arranged a fine velvet capelet reminiscent of something a Vogue pattern book might have published in the 1960s, while other mannequins, like the ones in the photo of the shop window, proclaim graphics as a strong contributor to style. The graphics here were drafted by Devon Smith of Wellington.

The arrival of Storm, Willis Street

    Take an idea, sign up for a windowless ‘serviced office’ so small you have to lay all your fabrics in the corridor, and embark on a design house. These almost Victorian steps were the origins of Deborah Caldwell’s STORM label, and now her seventh outlet has just opened, at 49 Willis Street, Wellington. It is spacious and enticingly lit. Moving around the racks is like touring. The range of garment types, materials, cuts and details is wonderfully broad. Such breadth pays tribute to Caldwell’s imagination and determination, all comfortable under the Storm label. The name, with all its hints of broodiness, dark colours, metallic graduations and flashes of light was not so much chosen, as arrived in Caldwell’s mind.
    There is humour and wryness in many of the garments, reflected in their names. For example, the illustrated jacket of smooth, caramel-coloured cloth is called First Officer. It has a pronounced military spirit, especially in Caldwell’s stylish reworking of the traditional shoulder boards. Instead of rank insignia, we have small lengths of brass tube and rows of rivets.
    Caldwell’s output is not rigidly dictated by season, although this is not ignored, but arrives in small, regular instalments so there is a freshness and a sense of expectation. New arrivals, interesting cuts and fabrics, and quirky names could all mean customers become regular visitors.

World Beauty; the shop

    Even from the street, one senses that the World Beauty shop is going to be like entering the private museum of someone attached to a European court. Inside, you are in the embrace of products whose sensuousness tap you lightly on the shoulder for attention.
    Perfumes are arranged into groups, luxuriate in their own special packaging, or are exhibited under glass bell-jars. The world’s powerful brands are here – Lanvin, Balmain, Linari, Lubin. They are set out with care so we can appreciate how the perfume houses have designed their bottles to be part of the magic. We come across the vitreous black of Arpège, the wooden frames for Dsquared, the glitter-ball top of Balmain, and the sculptural, cast glass typography of Lubin.
    Many of the perfumes come from houses with long histories. Heritage also purrs away as a backstory to the display of large scented candles from Cire Trudon of France. These are labelled with such delicious names as Spiritus Sancti, Trianon, Roi Soleil. They sit under glass bells which capture the scents and act as testers. The scents of these candles are complex, and may well take your imagination back centuries when the Trudon factory supplied so many palaces and ballrooms with their source of light.
    And as your eye travels over this landscape of offerings, it is often beguiled by antiques arranged like archipelagos for sale. There are pieces of Edwardian silver, hand-tinted photographs, bronze sculptures, books and architectural models.
    Great thanks are due to World Beauty at 98 Victoria Street, Wellington, for taking the effort to engage its customers with sparkle and fascination. TH

Two brooches at Quoil

    Looking into these small silver and stone brooches is like being faced with craggy mountain ranges where, perhaps, hunters have gone missing. They are the work of Christchurch-based jeweller Jeremy Leeming whose CV includes training with renowned Nelson designer Jens Hansen and exhibiting in collective studio-workshops in London.

For preference, Leeming works with readily available stones like argillite, greywacke and basalt – the stones that line our beaches, rivers and lakes. We might walk over them, or skim some across the water, but for Leeming, there’s always the chance that some will beckon to him with their readiness to be worked into jewellery. Stone-collecting trips are part of Leeming’s work, and this has included the souveniring of cobblestones from streets in Berlin and Prague. Collected and stored, it may take years before Leeming starts work on them.

These two brooches come from a collection themed around the landscape – a southern landscape of chilliness and outcrops. The brooches are built up on backgrounds of brushed and textured silver, and as a mark of authenticity, Leeming has his own hallmark stamped into the silver.

Leeming’s work is represented by the Quoil gallery at 149 Willis Street, Wellington.

Tailored Fun

Among the racks of well-tailored menswear at Marvel, 106 Victoria Street, are garments from the Christchurch-based partnership of Mickey Lin and Ra Thomson trading as MisteR. Browsing one of their creations is a journey through fun and excellent craftsmanship. This jacket is part of a three-piece suit from the 2010 Winter collection subtly based on themes to do with circus and ‘best in show’ events. The material is 100% wool suiting cloth, with sleeve linings of silk and body linings of cotton. The large stamp – the MR within a rosette – is screen printed onto the lining, and hints at designers’ marks stamped onto bolts of material from decades ago. It also hints of prize-winners in shows and exhibitions. Another fun detail in the garment is the occasional use of a patterned, fabric-covered button as a little sparkle of attraction amidst otherwise standard buttons. And, deep inside the garment – protected almost –lies a flap on which is written the edition number. This is like an author numbering each copy of a book, or an artist numbering each print as it comes off the printing press. Turn the flap over and you read “Made with love in NZ by your new found friends Mick & Ra”. Great fun, great poise, and with excellent drafting and stitching. TH

The spell of silver and glass

    At a browsing distance, the charm bracelets from design house Evolve invite you to come in close and enjoy their skill, colouring, and splashes of humour. Detailed componentry and story-telling underpin these charms which are like collectors’ items.
    The silver charms are modelled as flowers, birds and fish, as well as quirky items like the Daisy Cow, the caravan, the Combi van and the suitcase for travel. Also worked in silver are representations of attributes like strength, protection and heritage done with Maori motifs.
    The deeply-coloured glass charms are named after places – Taupo, Waiheke, Abel Tasman, Fox Glacier, Coromandel etc. They are not pictorial representations by any means, but more like small, rolled up Impressionist paintings. To work out which glass bead represents which location, you consult the illustrated catalogue produced by Evolve.
    In terms of craftsmanship, each item talks of care and thoughtfulness. The silver charms begin as large drawings which are then turned into models done in hard wax. From here, a silver ‘master’ is made using the centuries-old ‘lost wax’ foundry technique, and this master is used to manufacture the charms which are then polished and finished by hand. Pages of drawings which may well be later discarded precede what will become finished works. To offer opportunity for others to contribute, Evolve has entered the world of competition where designers are invited to present their ideas for possible fabrication.
    The brilliant glass comes from the Italian Murano factory – arriving as coloured rods which then undergo softening, the addition of differently coloured swirls and drops, then fused onto the silver rim ready to be threaded onto the bracelet.
    Each stage of production ensures a quality and a presence, while the use of small boxes and pouches at the retail end enhance the thrill of the work. Evolve is the collaboration of Tim and Louise Laing, based in Marlborough. The individual charms now number close to 150 in the series, and it is much due to the support of Wellington jewellery gallery Lazulé at 151 Cuba Street that these inspired works can glint and preen to an audience in a complementary manner to the designers’ website. TH

Fragrance as Style

    Many design houses enter the realm of fragrances. Some prove to be timid steps, others become strides of daring and their scents may well end up providing a lion’s share of income for the house. The fragrance which becomes special and long-lasting does so through exquisite formulation coupled with magnetic marketing.
    Comme des Garçons number 2 perfume possesses both great architecture of fragrance as well as treasure-like packaging. Fragrant notes of floral and earthy tones reveal themselves in varying strengths and over varying times on the skin. There is an unfolding vocabulary including cedar wood, patchouli, spices, and also a scented homage to the Japanese calligraphic ink known as sumi. Such an amalgam of notes has led bloggers from all around the globe to write of the perfume’s ‘intellectual presence’, its ‘powerful signature’, its ‘mossy and woody notes’ and its being a ‘gorgeous powerhouse of a fragrance’.
    And, furthering the specialness of the product is the container – a silvered flask perhaps reminiscent of some item on a 1930s dressing table, but with very modern modelling. Across the body of the metal has been engraved the number 2. Not with the crisp, serifed accuracy of a classic typographer, but like a scrawl; a little adolescent, a little bit like hesitant graffiti. It is studied naughtiness, but very successful, and echoes much of the house’s garment collection.
    Comme des Garçons 2 is available at Scottie’s, 4 Blair Street, who also stock works of other international spark like Dries van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester.  TH