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