nzfm – elle & the youthquake
The New Zealand Fashion Museum’s last exhibition focused on youth – especially the youthful approach of Wendy Ganley and her Elle Boutique. Starting out in the workroom of fashion legend Babs Radon where she worked for two years, moving on at 21 she opened her own workroom in Frankton, Hamilton. With deceptively simple garments, all beautifully cut and constructed she very quickly caught the eye of those in the know and 90% of her first public showing was sold. She moved onto opening her own boutique , Elle Boutique, in Victoria St Hamilton. This was no mean feat in those times – it was extremely unusual for a woman, and a woman her age, to do what she did. The Waikato Times said once the artfully designed boutiue was opened, “Elle Boutique tends to set fashions rather than comply with the move conventional fashion scene.”
She went on to influence Marilyn Sainty, who worked for her and made all the hats for Elle Boutique. She also supplied stock to Elizabeth and Neville Findlay for their first boutique Tart. She opened her Elle Boutique at the top of Vulcan Lane, Auckland in 1973. She went then went on to acquire the license for Jag which she rolled out into her own stores. She still works in clothing, but is now based in Hong King and works with her daughter Gemeli where she is involved in the lounge and sleepwear label Ophelia King.
She was very much part of the Youthquake that Diana Vreeland declared the world was subject to in 1965. This was the start of the youth culture affecting mainstream culture, and nowhere was this more pronounced but in fashion. We take this all very for granted in our youth-obsessed culture currently – but it was an enormous cultural shift at the time. The NZFM has added to this look back to our fashion past, with a massive dose of looking forward with twelve up and coming labels and designers, all part of our current ‘Youthquake’. The twelve are Rose Thomas (Nymphets), Nicole Wesseling, Sam Clyma (MRK), Steven Park (6×4), Anthea Tucker (Anthea) Clara Chon (Blue Blank), Glenn Yungnickel (Yungnickel), Sera Mitchell (Selector), Nomsu Mabuto, Elizabeth Kwan,Chloe Swabrick & Alex Bartley Catt ( The Lucid Collection) and Jeong-Hee Shin-Newstead (Mu).
Clara Chon’s Blue Blank is made all the more interesting by the fact that she has never trained as a designer. A fine arts graduate, this remarkable collection is often cut and sewn by Clara herself, even though she is completely self taught. Each of the “Harnesss” bags is unique – with each one individually cut and sewn.
Nicole Wesseling first caught my attention as winner of the Newmarket Young Designer of the Year in 2009. Her prize was to travel to NYFW with Karen Walker and a first year scholarship to study design at Whitecliffe. It was at Whitecliffe that I also saw her end of year collection – which easily fit into my top three collections from that year. With incredible attention to detail, Nicole knows how to cut and tailor a garment.
Elizabeth Kwan was inspired by origami with her sleek and deceptively simple designed bags and accessories. Working in a stripped back palette of caramel, gold and black – the collection is concise and well made.
Sam Clyma of MRK is another accessory designer to be featured with a deceptively simple look to his work. But each piece has a quirky and clever element – a clutch that is held at the side rather than the top or bottom – they have an almost mathematical element to them. I may have bought one straight away… I also love his backpacks – which I may have to acquire as well.
Steven Park’s reworking of clothing so each piece is unique comes in a simple palette of white and black. With a unisex approach, the long layers are cleverly constructed and put together. He is definitely one to watch…
Glenn Yungnickel has been turning my head since I saw his graduating ROOKIE show at the memorable St Pauls Church on Symonds Street. Fantastic mens suits in the brightest of colours – vermillion. Yungnickel continues to make striking clothes, just now in a softer palette. Natural fibres feature strongly with linen shirts and bright white tees – a very wearable offering.
Anthea Tucker worked with greys for her entire Anthea Anthea collection. This meant the use of texture was very visually prominent – with softly tailored jackets and suits – with huge chunky hand knits (my favourite) adding to the texture palette. The whole collection was shown on a copper rack from Illhangithere – adding more of the locally crafted to the mix.