There's a common misconception, perpetuated by many traditional fashion media, that style is something inherently right or wrong, good or bad. Something that can be - surprise - taught by editors/designers if you buy their publication/clothes. We vehemently disagree with that notion here at Ensemble.
Instead, we believe that style is an exciting creative expression and we would never judge or shame anyone for taking risks or pushing boundaries. We find true creative expression far more interesting than contrived.
Looking though these archival photos of very stylish people on Queen St in Tāmaki Makaurau in the 1960s gives us way more inspiration than modern street style photographs, which have almost begun to feel like walking billboards for fashion brands hawking free goods to influencers.
Chances are, the people in these photos didn't consider themselves style icons; they were just going about their days and happened to be captured on film. But how chic did they look? One of the recurring moods, for me, is the pride they seem to take in their ensembles.
I came across the collection of images just before what was meant to be New Zealand Fashion Week in August, when people were preparing their outfits, and it gave me a much needed reminder of what “real” style actually is. It’s about the person, not the clothes.
The photos are from the vast archive of Rykenberg Photography, a studio that operated in central Auckland with a variety of photographers. Offering a special kind of Auckland street style, they were taken on the footpath along Queen St (some literally down the hill from the Auckland Town Hall, where NZFW was set to take place; you can see it in the background of some of the images).
The studio’s namesake and founder, John Rykenberg, documented a unique side of Tāmaki Makaurau; capturing the nightlife of the city in the 1950s and ‘60s (Audio Culture shares a history of that here), and welcomes and farewells at the wharves (Metro covered that brilliantly here). Many of the studio’s original photo negatives were donated to the Auckland Library, an important record of the city - and the way we dressed.