Kate Sylvester briefing her models before the show - photos: Oliver Rose
There's no mistaking the Kiwi designers in Sydney. They're the ones who actually clothe the girls, you know, who make sure nobody leaves the house without a cardigan or a sensible pair of shoes. New Zealand's a little cooler than Sydney. In the weather, certainly, but there's an aloofness - or at least something a little reserved - among our designer's collections that you don't always see on the cocktail-frock dominated catwalks over here. Kate Sylvester is a specialist at designing clothes that befit a lady. Not clothes for ladies of a certain age, but clothes that cool young girls (or cool older girls) can wear and look interesting in, without having to resort to exposing excess amounts of flesh. The kind of stuff a young fine art's student might find while rummaging through her Nana's closet.
The show's invitation featured a picture of Kate Sylvester joined by her dream dinner party guest list - Morrissey, Keats, Proust, Coco Chanel, Alessandra Colombo, Loulou de la Falaise and young Auckland-based model Vincent Paunovic. On the back was a short story written in the first person by Sylvester herself, of how she came to meet all of the above (it involved a long walk down a particularly interesting road).
Inside the venue, all was calm and composed. Tiffany's-green goody bags pinned with tiny floral arrangements sat at 50 centimeter intervals along the long white catwalk. Silk curtains billowed like white clouds against a blue-sky video backdrop. Hipster zeitgeisters The XX filled the room with slow, melodic song.
It was a quaint, accessible, ultra wearable collection filled with knitted twinsets in grey marle, cute tops in lacy white cotton and dresses printed with naive floral still-lifes. Clothing to wear on a breezy summer's day, perhaps to a garden party filled with fascinating people.
The ubiquitous tan leather (it's been absolutely everywhere this week) gave a bit of edge in bustiers, high waisted knickers and skirts, as did two-toned heels and clumpy loafers in petrol blue and oily green. These worked especially well with boyish shorts-suits in brownish-grey, but looked a little confused when paired with a knee length denim skirt reminiscent of an early 90s housewife.
The finale featured a girl in a mannish black suit with indigo pussy bow walking arm in arm with a girl in a lacy white dress. The Kate Sylvester bride and groom. No doubt a sly nod to stylist Karen Inderbitzen Waller and her wife Delphine Avril Planqueel who, dressed by Sylvester, were wed last year. (The show notes stated 'Big big thanks to... my resident tomboys - Karen and Avril'.) It figures - those two are the quintessential Kate Sylvester girls - cute, always appropriately dressed, with a definite lean towards the Nana.
Kate Sylvester and Tim Blanks
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