Keri Wanoa and Brooke Strang from WANOA FOUR Image supplied.
Designers and sisters Keri Wanoa and Brooke Strang are the founders of contemporary womenswear label WANOA FOUR which they launched in 2016. Before starting their own label both Keri and Brooke had worked in various roles within the fashion industry for many years including owning retail stores, design, online stores, editorial styling and more. The name WANOA FOUR comes from the fact that they are two of four creative Wanoa sisters and the brand is a reflection of their cultural identity and commitment to kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and sustainability. They design thoughtful pieces that are made in New Zealand from primarily natural fabrics including silk, linen and NZ Merino wool.
We caught up with Keri and Brooke to find out more about their brand, what inspires them and what you would never catch them wearing!
Tell us about your latest collection?
Brooke: Our latest collection is about positive change and evolving. We have introduced tailored minimalist styles that can be worn a number of different ways. Designing quality garments with longevity in mind. Like always, merino wool plays a huge part in our new collection and custom print on silhouettes creating a meaningful connection to indigenous design. You’ll also see pops of colour… yes, colour! Softening masculine designs with a touch of femininity.
Keri: It is one of our favourite collections! I mean we kinda say that about every collection but this one really is… it’s taken us back to our roots, it was time for us to reset and evolve which has resulted in us staying true to our values and brand identity. We are excited to bring some key pieces out of archives (like our Phyllis High Pant, named after our nana) and are especially excited to be working with our new super lux merino and brushtail possum down fibre, these are definitely a collection fave.
What made you become designers?
Brooke: My love of fashion from a very young age and growing up in a family of four girls, it was inevitable really. We grew up playing dress ups, forever pulling every piece of clothing out of our mother’s, nana’s and neighbour’s wardrobes. This evolved into years of working in various roles in the fashion industry, including establishing our own label and subsequent retail stores in Nelson, Christchurch and Wellington. Keri and I finally joined forces and created Wanoa Four, with a focus around designing a beautiful ethical and sustainable womenswear brand. Working with my sister and the support of our family has been the backbone of our label, we continue to push each other and find ways to develop and innovate our collections staying true to our values.
Keri: We grew up in a super creative whānau with a love of music, dance and fashion (with four sisters it’s hard to leave fashion out of the equation). I actually wanted to be a hairdresser but our mum and older sister, Lani were both hairdressers so I ended up taking accounting, economics and shorthand typing lol. It wasn’t until much later (more than a decade in fact) that I actually had the courage to pursue fashion. In hindsight, deciding to study fashion design while working and raising a young family was probably a slightly crazy idea but a year later my husband and I had started our first design business and things just grew from there. Brooke and I have always worked together and supported one another in the industry so it was inevitable that we’d end up where we are today. Establishing Wanoa Four is one of the best decisions we’ve ever made! Being able to combine our talents, doing something we love, with the people we love… best job ever!
Looks from WANOA FOUR’s latest collection.
What inspires you?
Brooke: So many things… different cultures inspire me, artisans, travel, art, architecture, music and street style. A love and respect of tradition and homage to history.
Keri: Same! I think I’m most inspired by people and culture, particularly indigenous artisans, the absolute craftsmanship of works, and the knowledge that sits behind them, it is something truly indescribable. I’m inspired everyday by indigenous values and traditional practice, most of which is at the forefront of innovation and sustainability.
Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
Brooke: Relaxed, effortless – denim jeans are my go too, I love how versatile they are. Worn casually with a tee or dressed up with a blouse and good heels. I also love considered, timeless well tailored garments. This is emphasised throughout our easy to wear designs, blazers and knits are staple pieces in my wardrobe.
Keri: I’m a bit of a mixed bag… I’m big on tailored garments mixed with comfort, a very low key type of vibe.
What is your all-time favourite purchase?
Brooke: Most of my favourite purchases are vintage finds and there’s been a few hidden gems along the way. One that comes to mind would be a navy leather Moschino belt with chunky gold domes wrapped around it! You can’t beat a good accessory.
Keri: This is a toughie! One of my best finds was picking up a vintage Burberry umbrella from a garage sale. I didn’t even realise it was Burberry at the time as it was starting to rain, so I bought it for the walk home, I just happened to look up when I popped it open and saw the fine red Prorsum emblem lol… best buy at $2!
What wardrobe item should everyone invest in?
Brooke: Our merino and possum hair Logo knit
Keri: Ditto! We should all be investing for longevity, quality garments that last a lifetime.
Do you have a style rule you always obey?
Brooke: No rules, I do however like to mix designer with vintage to keep things authentic.
Keri: No rules! Individuality is a good thing!
Looks from WANOA FOUR’s latest collection.
What has been the highlight of your careers so far?
Brooke: New Zealand Fashion Week was a huge highlight, showing alongside some incredible designers that have paved the way.
Keri: Ditto and working in a whānau-centric brand is also pretty cool.
What can’t you live without?
Brooke: My family and friends, oh also my ghds.
Keri: Twin-brain, as above lol but mine are Cloud Nines.
Finish this sentence – You would never catch me wearing…
Brooke: Crocs and anything mustard. I mean I love the colour on other people, on me ghastly… Crocs just a straight up no thanks.
Keri: I am literally laughing out loud at Brooke’s answer because I have both haha! I distinctly remember when I showed my sisters my “outside Croc slippers” (they were lined with sheepskin and I bought them so I could walk to and from the washing line without getting my actual slippers wet)… their exact response was “no Keri… no, on every level!”. Gotta love em, lol!