New Zealand made fashion is becoming increasingly rare.
The Auckland warehouse of fashion fabric supplier Hawes and Freer is buzzing with activity: The company’s small team chat as they cut yardage, press buttons and log orders for a roll-call of some of New Zealand’s top designers. Ask owner and industry veteran Trevor Hookway about the state of our wider rag trade, though, and he paints an altogether less active and cheerful scene: “In terms of investment and government support, it really is our forgotten industry.”
If the country’s garment sector had indeed been forgotten, recent T-shirt-shaped events brought it back to public attention. Earlier this month, leading fashion brand World was caught selling foreign-manufactured T-shirts as New Zealand made. Designer Dame Denise L’Estrange-Corbet, known as a staunch advocate for manufacturing locally, defended her company’s move, saying it had no choice but to use foreign-produced materials as Kiwi factory after Kiwi factory closed down. Was her gloomy take on the local scene accurate, and if so, is New Zealand-made fashion soon to be nothing but a memory?