What is Wellington Style?
New Zealand women always have a great sense of style. Unlike living in other parts of the world, there isn’t a class system here, and people don’t care where you’re from. Women like me can express who they are through what they wear in a very personal way. And that shows up in our fashion choices.
Wellingtonians mix style all the time. If you are in our town, you're just as likely to find that grungier street style guy drinking coffee on Ghuznee Street is heading downtown later that day to KPMG to get investment in his craft brewery, or that cardigan-wearing quiet type from Communications in a public department is putting on a one-woman show Bats Theatre, covered in nothing but glitter. You always need to be nice in Wellington (and everywhere else really), because you never know what people really do, how much mana they may have and who they know. If there is one thing Wellingtonians don't like, it's being put in a box!
One thing I adore is that in Wellington we have access to amazing New Zealand designers, and wonderful small businesses, who cater to our unique sense of style, whether creating New Zealand made clothes or importing speciality brands for the Kiwi woman. “When I visit trade shows overseas for a label like Jeffery Campbell” Andrea Bailey, owner of Andrea Biani Shoes, tells me. “Our liaison always knows what style New Zealand woman prefer. He sets aside the looks that work for our market, because it is unique, just like New Zealand women.” Small boutiques like Andrea's know what women here want: imaginative, eclectic and elegant pieces they can truly LIVE in.
My Style Evolution
As a Wellingtonian, my sense of style has evolved over the years. Some staples have, however, always stayed the same. A great coat, a pair of jeans, and ankle boots, I’ve found, will always take you far.
When I was a young teenager, it was all about the surf brands: Roxy, Billabong and Rusty were the go-to labels, and I ADORED anything by Paul Frank. I loved colourful, cartoonish styles that had a point of view and were funny or satirical. I remember really, really wanting a graphic tee that said the names of the Ramones on the front. Another favourite top, which I wore when I met my childhood icon, Jacqueline Wilson, said ‘I Will Not Chew Gum in Class’. I thought it was very sassy.
However, at my all-girls school style started to change. Glassons and Supre was all the rage, circa 2000’s. Crop tops, hoodies, mini skirts (denim or black) hoop earrings, bum belts and flares were popular, accompanied by ‘skanky flaps’ also known as a putting your hair in a very tight ponytail and then pulling forward two strands near your face and adding excessive amounts of hair gel. Somehow, it always felt like a look I wasn’t destined to pull off. Even if I had, my mother wouldn’t have let me out of the house in it. I did, however, have my rebellious moments. I distinctly remember changing for a dance at an all boys school behind the bus stop, after being dropped off at friends down my road, swapping trousers for a white mini skirt, a black halter top with my favourite blue Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Needless to say, I felt ULTRA cool.
Into my late teens, I developed a love of New Zealand designers and New Zealand boutiques, particularly cute shoes like these ones from Andrea Biani. We would mix and match affordable high street brands with a cute sale dress, layered with a cardigan and tights. Hemlines remained high, as I felt like showing legs was a great thing. Because of this, high heels always felt a bit too dressy and would kill your feet if you went out. As such, ankle boots became my go-to. I remember that Jeffery Campbell as the hight of chic, a reputation it upholds to this day.
My Style Today
As I’ve grown into my twenties, my style has shifted towards classic pieces. Conscious shopping is now more important to me than ever. I keep lots of the clothes I have loved over the years, and now try to gradually add pieces that are of better quality. I also invest in small businesses wherever possible.
Personally, I love this outfit which I’m wearing above - a vintage coat from St Vincent De Paul shop in Aro Street, a white shirt from R.M. Williams and classic blue jeans, finished with these adorable Cromwell boots from Andrea Biani. Andrea started her business in Wellington which has now been around for 20 years and now has 7 scores around the South Island and an online store to cater for us Wellingtonians. She’s an amazing example of Kiwi women in business and represents someone I now would actively choose to support because I know that when I buy boots from her, as opposed to some online brands, it keeps the money in the New Zealand economy.
Wellington is small yet flat in the centre of town, all the way from Lambton Quay to Cambridge Terrace. The size of the city means we go on foot; we often just go from an evening show on Courtenay Place to a dive beer bar on Leeds Street so people tend to dress in a chic, yet comfortable manner which allows them to transition between many people and places.
Our style will always remain eclectic. Wellington truly is a town where 'anything goes'. You can see a hippy with dreads and no shoes on Cuba Street walking next to a person in a sharp suit, and neither care. Wellingtonians love op-shopping, New Zealand designers, unique boutiques and comfortable shoes. We don't bother with heels because Wellingtonians walk EVERYWHERE. And for that, dear readers, you’d be advised to buy some great ankle boots like these cuties from Andrea Biani…
Photos by Carmen Huter.
This blog post is sponsored by Andrea Biani South Island Limited but as usual, all opinions (and bad dress choices) are my own.