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Interview: Augustine International

After three years working for one of New Zealand's largest fashion houses, designer Kelly Coe established her own label, Augustine International, in 2008.

The brand is synonymous with bright fabrics and overstated embellishments. Augustine is now stocked in over forty boutiques throughout New Zealand and Australia. asked Kelly to offer a tip or two to aspiring fashion designers...

Who or what inspires your design aesthetic/look?

I get inspiration from a lot of places. Sometimes the most inspiration comes when I am selecting the fabrics and the trims. Some soft floaty silks almost design themselves in the way that they need to be in a gentle gorgeous style.

I love the grecian, one shoulder look with trims and embellishments and it's a style that works really well for us.

I always keep an eye on the current trends overseas but never follow them too closely, I find that what works overseas doesn't always suit New Zealand body shapes.

Travel is also a very inspirational adventure, the colours that you find in some cultures are truly beautiful. Whether it be the little paper umbrellas with gorgeous prints on them in China, or the tribal dress of an African lady. Indian woman and their saris are also ethnically stunning.

But all in all I am inspired everyday by seeing what woman wear, what is happening on the street, at a race carnival, in a magazine styled shoot. I find inspiration and then put my twist on it, and always embellish it, I am such a magpie. You are never truly dressed up without a little bling.

How long does the process take, from the design of a garment to seeing it in shop windows?

This is quite a long process. I do my basic designs here in New Zealand, then I go to China and choose the fabrics and the trims. There I have a sketch artist draw up my designs and a pattern maker who makes my patterns. They then make the sample and send it to me for final approval.

I show the samples to my wholesalers from which they place their orders. So all in all, from initial fabric selection to the dress being instore, it can be anything from three to six months. The next collections will take a little longer as I did a lot of designing for the October high summer range back in February. I had to plan ahead a lot as I was pregnant and couldn't fly to China for a certain time.

NZFW celebrates new fashion talent. What are your tips for aspiring Kiwi designers?

I think it is important to work for someone else in the fashion/design industry before going out on your own. I worked for High Society, one of NZ's largest wholesale/manufacturing companies prior to starting my own label. You can then work from the bottom up and learn so much about the industry that they won't learn at university.

Which designers do you wear?

At the moment I am living in jeans and T-shirts as I have a three-month-old baby who dribbles.

Then when I go out at night to an event or party I will always wear my own designs - you are your own best advertisement.

But I just purchased a pair of Kathryn Wilson heels and I have a fab new Deborah Sweeney cotton dress for summer.

I also think Cybele does a brilliant job of print silks and patterns.

Internationally I love some of the Elizabeth and James dresses, and Gypsy 05 maxi dresses are to die for.

If money was no object I would like to have one of everything that Victoria Beckham wears, that lady has style by the Hermes bag full!

What's your fashion advice for Kiwi women?

Dress up more! Make more of an effort everyday and try new things that you wouldn't normally wear. 

New Zealand woman can be very conservative in their dressing and wear far far far too much black and basic pieces. There is no reason why you can't wear a beautiful silk print tunic to the office, just put it back with a great skinny jean and heels.

Add more colour to your wardrobe and don't worry about what other woman will think of you for being dressier than everyone in the room.

And the one most important thing is that when you become a mum, that is no excuse to loose all sense of style! Find the time to get a great hair cut, put on a pair of jeans that suck everything in, put on a colourful top and some fab heels and rock it!



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