Anjali Stewart and Rachel Easting are the powerful force behind successful New Zealand brand twenty-seven names, known best for its use of fun-loving prints, colour and playful aesthetic. The brand is one that stays true to its roots, taking an impressive stance on ethically made fashion. Celebrating 10 years this year, Zara Overton caught up with the duo to find out more about their recent New Zealand Fashion Week show and discovered how they continue to build their brand…
N. Your recent New Zealand Fashion Week collection showcase of AW19 A Cat May Look at a Queen was one of highlights of the week. Can you tell us what the inspiration was behind this collection?
The collection is a letter to our younger selves. It celebrates taking chances, having confidence in your own ideas, and remembering that no one is you, and that is your power! We’ve never had so much fun designing a collection – it’s really been a labour of love.
N. Within this show you included a moving performance by the Auckland Girls Grammar choir, as well as models skating down the runway, both of which added an element of energy and fun and were perfectly suited to the collection. What goes into the production of a show?
A lot! We try to keep everything as lo-fi and low drama as possible. There is lots of admin; guest lists, seating, sound, lighting, model booking, photography, hair and makeup, but everything does somehow manage to come together in the end.
N. This year marks 10 years of being in business for twenty-seven names, a huge achievement and testament to the love that so many Kiwi women have for your brand. How do you balance the running of the business, fashion shows and motherhood?
It’s far from easy, but we’re lucky to have each other to keep on track and stay motivated. We often go home to get the kids in bed, come back to work in the evenings, and then spend all weekend folding the washing. We feel lucky to have our own business so we can set our own agenda and support the people who work with us to do the same.
N. What advice would you give to a budding young designer who is looking to start their own label?
Hustle, hustle, hustle, grind, grind, grind – repeat. A lot of hard work will get you very far.
N. Having been involved with NZFW for a number of years, how has the New Zealand fashion industry changed over that time?
Bloggers are called influencers now.
N. What are some of the lessons that you have learnt over this time?
There is a formula to a good runway show…. But challenging that formula is how we’ve pushed forward. Also there is great value in sharing your own story, and finding ways of supporting others while doing what you love – it’s a win win.
N. What roles do NZFW shows play in your wider brand strategy?
With a small team, being based in Wellington, and both of us having young kids we’ve chosen to take a periodic approach to showing – this keeps things fresh.
N. twenty-seven names takes a commendable position on ethical fashion, firstly being made in New Zealand and putting a lot of thought into the manufacturing/production of garments – can you tell us a bit about your stance on sustainability and ethical fashion?
When choosing our fabrics we look for so many things simultaneously – beauty, hand-feel, luxury, natural composition, country of origin, sustainability, and that certain je ne sais quoi. Making ethical and sustainable choices is a way of life for us, and we couldn’t be more proud to be New Zealand made.
N. Who is the twenty-seven names customer?
With each store we’ve opened we’ve come to appreciate just how diverse our customers are – but one thing they can all agree on is that navy is always a good idea.
N. What do you love most about having a store in Newmarket?
That’s easy – we love our store in Newmarket. We worked so hard on the fit out, and we’re so proud of what we achieved with our mate Rufus Knight. It’s so special for us to have a tangible space that represents how far we’ve come as a brand.
N. What do you wish you’d known before you started twenty-seven names?
It’s an iterative process, just try to enjoy the ride. But most importantly we’re both suited to a blunt haircut.
N. Do you have an all-time favourite piece from twenty-seven names?
Our Heartbreaker Shirt – it is very dear to my heart. It was our first ever custom print and it is my favourite thing we’ve ever made. I literally have two in my wardrobe – one for everyday and one for ‘nice.’ I’ve had to mend my everyday one at the cuff, but it’s kind of like kintsugi, it’s become even more dear to me for it.
N. What are you reading at the moment?
Anjali – I’m making my way through the latest National Geographic right now.
Rachel – Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen.
N. And what’s on your workroom playlist?
We’re vibing on our fashion week playlist: Mase – Welcome Back
M.I.A – Bad Girls
Cardi B – Best Life
Janet Jackson – Got ‘Til It’s Gone Russ – Flute Song
Chelsea Jade – Laugh It Off
Eve – Who’s That Girl?
Travis Scott – Stop Trying To Be God Des’ree – You Gotta Be
N. What’s next for twenty-seven names?
We have some exciting stuff on the cards for 2019 – watch this space!