Project Rebuild – Make it work

The earthquakes have changed the face of Christchurch considerably, and fashion has not been immune to this.

Imagery – Nathan Adams 

Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue, said: “Fashion reflects the times just as much as a headline in a newspaper does.” This observation holds so much truth within any era in history, but resonates within a post-quake Christchurch context.


Nathan Ingram, fashion tutor at CPIT and designer behind local brand Love Triangle, comments that before the quakes:


“Christchurch was well-known as a city dominated with gothic architecture, and its fashion was also well-known as being dark. To say the least, Christchurch fashionistas had a love affair with black.”


The quake aftermath saw this love affair deepen, with black clothing and oh-so-flattering high-vis vests setting the fashion scene. However, as we became more optimistic about the future and accepting of our city, black was slowly relegated to the back of the wardrobe.


Fashion is a beautiful art form, and a creative outlet for expression of ourselves and our moods.


 Love Triangle

Imagery Johanna Macdonald

Fashion blogger Melissa Chrisp says she took to the streets with photographer Nathan Adams and assistant Holly Otene to snap street style: “set amongst Christchurch’s radically changed landscape”. As a result, Melissa saw, and documented, the changes in fashion along a post-quake timeline.


Her website,, not only shows this, but also how she used fashion to lift her own spirits after the quake – which included the sad days when Melissa remembered her “favourite places that are no longer in existence or accessible.”


We too miss our (slowly returning) shops, and appreciate the opportunity to wear their clothes.


Nathan Ingram adds that Cantabrians will: “take any excuse to dress up,” and that “stepping out in style always boosts your confidence” – a factor tied closely to our environment – and “making the most of any social situation.” With bars and events scarce, having a reason to experience a small amount of glamour is gladly accepted.


As a fashion blogger, clothing is Melissa’s life, but post-earthquake she says she has a greater understanding of: “the power associated with taking the time to dress up each day.”  Melissa will carry this lesson with her for the rest of her life, especially when she relocates her colourful self to New York City.


Nathan sees the “most obvious change in the direction of local fashion as the abundance of colour,” which he says is a way of “brightening the mood in a drab environment.” As the rebuild gained momentum, and lives slowly returned to our new normal, colour started to filter in through the cracks. People were coming to terms with the rebuild, and projecting more positive outfits and outlooks.


Chris Park

Imagery Chris Park 


Christchurch is making very fast-paced ‘out with the old, in with the new’ rebuild progress, but we will always remember the old High Street and our favourite boutiques, welcoming them back with open arms and open wallets.


The ‘Gap Filler’ project in Christchurch sums up the rebuild so well, as empty spaces are quickly filled. Gaps in the market are making way for the establishment of new brands, in what is becoming a city with innovation at the fore.


Instead of looking at the old city we’ve lost, we can focus on what we’ve gained – namely, a world-first shipping container mall, revamped high-end malls, including The Colombo in ‘SoMo’ (South of Moorhouse) and Merivale, and a recent development, The Tannery Boutique Retail and Arts Emporium in Woolston – home to Where the Fox Lives, Love Triangle’s Christchurch distributor.


Worthy of special mention is the department store Ballantynes – an iconic Christchurch store that’s back in business, with The Fashion Atrium reviving many of the beautiful High Street labels, which many in Christchurch thought had been lost.


These shops, now scattered around greater Christchurch, give us the perfect excuse to put on our comfiest shopping wedges and explore our beautiful city – including the vast array of what NZ Style Collective’s Chris Park calls awesome second hand clothing stores.


Before the quakes, vintage clothing had a niche market, but as creativity grows in our city, buying key vintage pieces has become another notable reflection of individuality. Christchurch is moving forward by paying homage to the past and feeding fashion’s cyclical tendencies, as Chris says: “what’s old is new to a new generation.”


Clash Boutique in Re:Start – imagery


Chris grew up in Christchurch. Now, based in Wellington, he returns to see: “snapshots of the rebuild,” as he refers to them, every few months. When Chris is in town, he eats at Serious Sandwich and shops at Stencil in The Colombo, before visiting Infinite Definite and Clash Boutique in Re:Start, where he chats with locals about which op-shops they’ve been frequenting.


He notes that: “the biggest change has been people’s mentality, and that has carried through into how they dress. Pre-earthquake, I found that Christchurch communities were highly stratified and cliquey – you only associated [with] and saw a small segment of society.”


He adds that: “the earthquake shook more than just the buildings… in terms of fashion, I think that’s liberated people from the slightly more conservative norms of dress – sticking out a bit isn’t such a big deal anymore.”

The demolition of old Christchurch has seen the city evolve into a mecca of creativity, reflected in a new style, which is accessible to all. This paradigm shift in Christchurch has been reflected in the fashion scene, as Cantabrians embody high-low fashion, mixing their beloved old pieces with key, on-trend purchases.



Nathan observes that people are being: “forced to think outside the square,” as shopping habits have changed due to the lack of a CBD. As a result, “a lot more people are targeting vintage stores, or remaking old clothes into new,” he says. The quakes have caused many people to clean out their wardrobes, leading them to old, forgotten vintage treasures.


I’m very happy to report that I found some cream-coloured, high-waisted shorts that belonged to my mother in the ‘80s; along with blazers and accessories, I’ve gratefully assimilated them into my current wardrobe.


The classic timelessness of vintage garments, mixed with modern and on-trend pieces, creates individuality and style truly expressive of the current climate in Christchurch – doing more with less, and progressing from old to new, while respecting the past.


The quakes have made us re-evaluate what’s important. While material goods are not as high on the list as perhaps they once were, the feel-good factor offered by a loved outfit shows that self-expressing style is something Cantabrians have come to effortlessly possess – in addition to a good stock of emergency supplies!


-Anny Ma




Related Articles
Get the latest fashion news, advice, interviews and competitions to your inbox!

Pin It on Pinterest