Update on Wednesday August 18: COVID-19 restrictions have postponed NZFW. Winner will still be drawn Thursday August 19, the lucky recipient will be able to receive their wardrobe at this time and we will notify them of new dates for NZFW as they become available. Should the show be cancelled altogether the winner will receive no additional compensation.
Kate Sylvester’s shows are legendary for their high concept themes, devised by her partner Wayne Conway, that transport the audience into another world, with seamless integration of music, hair, makeup and styling.
I’m eager to see what will hit the catwalk at the Auckland Town Hall this NZ Fashion Week when she shows on Tuesday August 24 (at 7.30pm). To celebrate 20 years of NZFW, Ensemble is giving away two seated invitations to the show and a $1000 Kate Sylvester wardrobe. To be eligible to win, simply sign up to receive our weekly newsletter.
Below are just a smattering of highlights from previous years of KS shows at NZFW.
Disclaimer: I worked on nearly all of these shows in some capacity (PR, marketing, sales, seating etc), so I am completely biased in my recollections of them...
Petit Garçon, 2001
The year was 2001 and NZFW was a newborn. However, Kate had twin boys at home and was heavily pregnant.
Nobody loves a catwalk the way Kate Sylvester loves a catwalk, and she was already experienced with fashion week shows through her much-lauded Australian Fashion Week appearances. But there was no way she could manage a catwalk show.
The next best thing? Take over a cosy cafe in Lorne St and have models dressed in prim schoolboy suiting write lines in chalk on the cafe blackboard.
It was impossibly chic and perfectly contained. Especially for guests (including then Vogue Australia editor Kirstie Clements) arriving from Gubb & Mackie’s show prior, held on the high seas and challenging those in high heels and flimsy clothing. And even though Kate’s show was an off-schedule event, NZFW founder Pieter Stewart was magnanimous enough to attend.
Love in a Cold Climate, 2004
Inspired by the complex and eccentric Mitford Sisters, who continue to inspire fashion designers and artists to this day (see: The Pursuit of Love, the recent TV adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s book).
As we were packing in backstage, we got loaded into the wrong area and somehow ended up hiding in the wings as Annah Stretton’s infamous boar head was coming out. She was unimpressed, despite us trying to imagine ourselves invisible.
Penguin books had kindly gifted us copies of Mary S Lovell’s biography The Mitford Girls to leave on the front row for guests. It made for a wonderful goodie bag and had us thinking about more intelligent and sustainable ways to work this rather hideous expectation.
Stop Your Sobbing, 2005
The show notes dedicated this to my dear friend Helen Grant who died some time later. But everyone in the audience felt the emotion in the room, from the incredible water display Wayne installed through to the evocative lighting and set playlist, and of course the clothes. Many admit to weeping.
My tears were of the unemotional variety: door staff let people through without checking passes (I saw a model proudly displaying a lanyard reading ‘Barney MacDonald’, who was the editor of Pavement) and the room quickly filled at over capacity leaving many guests out in the hall. I spent the show begging and pleading with them to let more in.
The one with the bright red cape (that later ended up on an iconic Fashion Quarterly cover).
Fun fact about this off-site, on-schedule show; we borrowed the truncheons and velvet rope from Showgirls across the road so we could manage crowd control efficiently. No one was left out in the cold this year!
Art Groupie, 2007
Another off-site show, this time in a warehouse in Grey Lynn. All the models were running late from the previous show; a TV crew arrived to capture the chaos I’d promised them to find… But we had nothing. Once the models did turn up, I think the chaos was more than they’d bargained for!
I was heavily pregnant and distinctly remember that the Marc Jacobs jelly shoes I was wearing were unsophisticated and juvenile next to the dreamy, surrealist elegance of the catwalk. The lighting was especially wonderful at this show.
Another iconic moment; the finale of this show (inspired by Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, also gifted to the front row) with confetti made from old books dropping from the ceiling.
This year also marked Kate’s 21st year in business and she celebrated by opening NZFW in the hours prior, where she used the capital she’s gathered over the years to advocate for more government support for the industry in her opening speech.
“Does our government want a country of passive ‘global’ consumers, importing ‘global’ product?” she asked. “Or, does our government want New Zealand to be a dynamic, creative, aspirational country exporting our product to the world?”
To be eligible to win two tickets to the show and a $1000 Kate Sylvester wardrobe, simply sign up to receive our weekly newsletter.
The winner will be drawn Thursday August 19 and notified via email. Please note the prize does not include travel or accommodation; the winner will need to be in Auckland on Tuesday August 24 in order to attend the show.