Portraits of designers Rachel Easting (left) & Anjali Stewart (right) by James K. Lowe from their exhibition at New Zealand Fashion Week 2016.
A decade is a long time yet it often feels like time passes so quickly and I’m sure that Rachel Easting and Anjali Stewart of Wellington-based label Twenty-seven names can hardly believe that they’re celebrating ten years in business and at New Zealand Fashion Week this year. From the beginning their label has been something special and built on a foundation of love, friendship and family, so it’s fitting that heart motifs often feature in their collections, including their latest one for Autumn/Winter 2017. The new collection is called “Leave no stone unturned” and instead of a runway show this time they opted for a photographic exhibition at Allpress Studios, having previously staged an exhibition at NZFW 2011 with great success.
The designer duo collaborated with talented photographer James K. Lowe to produce a set of eleven beautiful portraits of their friends and family that make up their team, as well as a fantastic series of large scale landscape shots taken on a road trip style shoot. It was impossible not to get caught up in the breathtaking beauty of the sublime photos shot at Te Henga (Bethells Beach) and Woodhill forest, as well as taking in the details of their winsome new collection. It was all too easy to fawn over a pretty floral print in soft hues on silk, likewise a gorgeous navy jacquard adorned with scarlet hearts made my heart beat a little faster. Twenty-seven names have been exploring different silhouettes the past few seasons and their latest trapeze style dress is high on my wish-list for next winter, as well as their charming blouses with pintucked details. Delightful gingham, printed velvet and chic stripes rounded out their romantic collection, all of which I want to add to my wardrobe immediately, especially the dresses.
Aside from swooning over the fashion, most guests took the time to read the designer’s statement about the exhibition which posed some powerful questions about appearance and self-acceptance which really resonated with me, as I’m sure it did with many others, and I wanted to republish it in full here:
Last year we dreamed big, inviting Emma Watson, Beyoncé and Helen Clark to our dinner party. We still haven’t heard back from them yet, maybe their RSVPs got lost in the post, maybe their calendars were a bit tight…? This year, we decided to look closer to home for a higher hit rate. It’s not always about the stars of your favourite Netflix show, or the movers and shakers, or the people winning those gold medals. More often, we’re inspired by our friends, our sisters, our team, our mothers.
We took the twenty-seven names team on a road trip with James K. Lowe, and these photographs are the result. Against the ever-inspiring backdrops of Te Henga (Bethells Beach) and Woodhill forest, we see that even in the same clothes we are all individuals. Each of us brings our own stories and our own beauty to the mix: the hair we hated as a teenager, the freckles we tried to wash off. Why couldn’t we have pencil thin eyebrows like everyone else? Whatever it was that made us different, we wanted to change it. But our mums were right, dammit! That difference is where the beauty lies.
Maybe loving these things about ourselves is something that comes with age (like a taste for early nights and a plush dressing gown) but maybe it shouldn’t have to. If we can see ourselves in the photographs, in the clothes, we can see that perfection isn’t a prerequisite to beauty. Your eye might jump to that thing you hate to see reflected in a photograph, but what happens when you look for a little longer? And what would happen if, instead of asking “How do I look?” we asked “What will I do today?
Twenty-seven names & James K. Lowe’s exhibition is on at Allpress Gallery, 8 Drake Street, Auckland Central from August 24 – 26.
By Evelyn Ebrey
Images by James Yang Photography