Designer Brooke Barrett. Image supplied.
Designer Brooke Barrett founded her eponymous womenswear brand in September 2017. The designer makes beautiful limited edition pieces that are all made to order with an ethos to reduce waste and keep production ethical and sustainable. Each piece is carefully handmade by Brooke herself from start to finish in her New Plymouth studio.
We caught up with Brooke to find out more about her brand, what inspires her and what you would never catch her wearing!
Tell us about your latest collection?
It’s something I’m actually really excited about! I’m individually releasing 5 different ‘occasion’ dresses through my online store (3 styles yet to be released) and I’m photographing people I admire (some for the admiration of who they are as a person, what they’ve achieved, or just because I find them beautifully unique) as my models as I wanted to create a ‘vibe’, I guess you could say, of who the Brooke Barrett collections are for, or can be for. I say they’re for ‘occasions’ but hey, you can wear them however the hell you like! I do.
Brooke Barrett is built on a ‘no mass production means less waste’ model. Each design is limited edition, and made to order by hand (by me) in my New Zealand studio; meaning quality control is personally overseen from start to finish. There has been a huge shift in awareness around the garment industry which I am really grateful for – understanding the background of where an item is coming from has allowed for more transparency within the industry and understanding #whomademyclothes is a really cool movement to be a part of.
You can view the collection here.
What made you become a designer?
I’ve been nearly 6ft since the age of 11 so the want to create was initially a need. I really struggled to find clothing that would fit and actually look okay! I was always creative; I really found my passion in being able to create something that I could utilise and actually make me feel good too. I discovered I could be in control of how I felt if I was feeling confident, so I started making things for myself all the time! I enrolled at Massey University to ‘polish’ my techniques in case I wanted to follow it through into a career and I’ve really just never stopped! What I have produced over the years has always evolved and I’m forever trying new things, but I’ve always come back to what actually makes me feel good as a wearer myself.
What inspires you?
Designing but also putting together an outfit? Anything different. I guess you could say I’m a bit of a sucker for glam, but can’t be too held back from a little rock’n’roll. I’ll often look at ways of making something look less common for every-day wear. It took me a long time growing up to be comfortable with myself, as I knew I always liked things a little more different! Some days I’m so inspired by the most ordinary basic things like a perfectly crisp tee (never underestimate the power of a great iron and ironing board), and other days by the intricacy of more glamorous things. I’m currently obsessed with flashy jewellery worn casually.
My absolute dream is to be the wardrobe designer for big bands on tour.
Designs by Brooke Barrett.
Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
My personal style is consistently changing! And I really like it that way. I was recently asked when I get dressed in the morning, who do I dress for? That really made me think, as I really have always dressed for no-one other than myself! Some days all I feel like wearing is my torn blue boyfriend jeans with the oldest t-shirt in my wardrobe (that I bought from a second hand store about 6 years ago) and a pair of oversized statement earrings, then other days I’ll wear one of my own more glamorous dresses with a pair of boots.
I guess I design items that I want to wear myself. I like to be comfortable, feel good, AND look good. I don’t think we should have to make sacrifices to feel all 3 of these things.
I remember having a rule at one point in my life that if I was going to a casual event I’d get really dressed up, or if it was an occasion I’d always wear pants. I liked the idea of wearing something that others wouldn’t ‘expect’.
What is your all-time favourite purchase?
The things that I have cherished the most is a great fitting pair of high waisted jeans (my all time favourite pair were a brand ‘Taxi’ which I assumed were from the 80s which I wore until they literally fell off me) and a black leather belt with an etched silver buckle. I purchased that belt about 14 years ago and still wear it to this day. Otherwise my favourites would be things I’ve made for myself that I couldn’t find but knew I wanted, and still have in my wardrobe today.
What wardrobe item should everyone invest in?
We all have our own personal style and ways of life so I believe that everyone has their own set of necessities. I recently counted all the items in my wardrobe I had purchased ‘new’ and could only count 11 items (the majority consists of things I’ve made, vintage, or pre-loved pieces). I’m someone who really shops for me and what I love, not necessarily faster fashion that is on trend. Know your style (by all means test the waters) and wear it well. You’ll be surprised at how much less you spend on things you don’t need, invest in the things you love, and how much more you’ll actually LOVE your clothing!
Do you have a style rule you always obey?
To be honest I don’t. I think like most things in life, once we confine ourselves under a certain set of rules we become so restricted, but we are always changing. A customer recently told me she always loves seeing my ‘costumes’ (I think the usual word here would be outfit!), which makes me think I must have no personal norm. I don’t think we should have rules of how to dress. If you’re not emotionally insulting anyone by your outfit choices or statements and it allows you that personal confidence – then go for it!
Dress by Brooke Barrett.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
You know, every day I talk to customers and clients and see the fulfillment they gain from something that makes them feel good. My greatest passion is seeing happiness in others, so it just feels so good knowing I can help others to feel this way!
What can’t you live without?
A sewing machine and the ability to just be me.
Finish this sentence – You would never catch me wearing…
I used to be a bit of a bogan and lived all day every day in my pointed Harley Davidson boots, black jeans that eventually ripped to shreds (that I mentioned earlier) and my leather jacket, all while saying I’d never be caught dead wearing pink – which is now the entirety of my branding! (I say ‘used to’ be a bogan but deep down I still definitely am). Now it’d probably be more rare to catch me wearing an entirely black outfit unless it was my leathers out on my man’s bike.