Each year, in March, Dunedin’s fashionista turn out to their event of the year, the Dunedin Fashion Week. Featuring the longest catwalk in the southern hemisphere, at 120 metres, the show is held on the platform of Dunedin’s fabulous Flemish Renaissance-style Railway Station. Why Dunedin, you say? Why does such a small city have such a well known fashion week?
Well it may just have something to do with the climate, which is more suited to penguins than pelicans, and to the hotbed of serious designers who have lived and studied in Dunedin for many years now. Way back, before New Zealand was well known for anything other than sheep and Sir Edmund Hillary, then unknown back-street designers were stitching together some serious fashion items from local woollen fabrics. These edgy garments were designed to look fabulous, aloof, sturdy, but thoughtful while helping repel the vagaries of this energetic southern climate.
Over time some of New Zealand’s best designers have sprung from Dunedin to display their creations on catwalks around the world. NomD’s Margi Robertson was one of the original Dunedin designers who went with a New Zealand group of four to show at the 1999 London Fashion Week.
Each year Dunedin Fashion Week attracts designers from around New Zealand and overseas. For seven days the city is glam with glitterati, in town to celebrate in style. The first part of the week is a succession of smaller fashion events, shopping outings and mini-parades, with designers showing off their collections in smaller venues. Thursday night marks the start of the serious stuff with the International Emerging Designer Awards, which has launched the career of many a smart young designer. The main event, the iD Dunedin Fashion Show is held on the Friday and Saturday nights at the railway station.
Dunedin’s Fashion Week has now become established as a key part of New Zealand’s design calendar, helping to foster links with designers and fashion houses around the world, but especially into Asia, and particularly Shanghai.
If you’re driving through in your Dunedin rental car, take the time to visit some of the design stores around the city. George Street, in the central city, has a number of boutiques and high fashion stores. NomD, Mild-Red, Charmaine Reveley and Company of Strangers are ones to watch out for.