Kate Sylvester’s eponymous label is set to close in 2025, the designer announces

10 April 2024
By Amberley Colby

One of fashion's true greats reveals their planned departure from the industry.

Kate Sylvester and Wayne Conway.

Following the recent string of brand closures in Aotearoa, the local industry has been hit with another shockwave this morning as fashion veteran Kate Sylvester announced the closure of her eponymous label. ⁠

Sylvester, who runs the brand alongside her husband and co-founder Wayne Conway, celebrated the label’s 30th anniversary in 2023. It was this significant milestone that led the pair to reflect on their journey thus far and consider where they wanted to take the brand moving forward. Entering their 31st year in business, the duo revealed that they will release their spring/summer 2024/2025 collection later this year, and will wind down operations in 2025 — ultimately seeing the closure of Sylvester’s six stores between Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. ⁠

Kate Sylvester show at New Zealand Fashion Week 23: Kahuria. Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images for NZFW.
Kate Sylvester '93 23' campaign.

“We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved,” the pair stated in a press release. 

“Thank you to our customers for embracing our vision and making us the iconic NZ brand we have become. It has been our honour and privilege to create clothes worn and loved by multiple generations of women both everyday and for the most important moments in their lives.”

Originally launching under the name ‘Sister’ in the ’90s, the pair began their brand out of a warehouse on Kitchener Street in Auckland, with Sylvester designing and Conway — a graphic designer — responsible for creating prints and handling business operations. It was in the late ’90s that they decided to change the name to Kate Sylvester.⁠

As one of the industry’s most influential brands, the announcement comes as a shock to many, including media, the label’s loyal customer base, and fellow fashion heavyweights. “The news of Kate Sylvester’s closure was very unexpected. We imagine brands that have become familiar will always be there,” said Zambesi’s co-founder, Liz Findlay. “I am sure that the brand’s followers will be saddened by the news and Kate and Wayne’s contribution to the industry has been significant.”

This sentiment was echoed by Ruby’s creative director, Deanna Didovich, who told FQ, “I have a few treasured pieces of Kate Sylvester in my wardrobe that I’ve never been able to part with, and to hear this iconic brand was closing its doors was so sad to hear, however the impact that Kate Sylvester has had on New Zealands fashion landscape will never be forgotten.”

Known for her contemporary and sophisticated silhouettes that strike the balance between masculine and feminine, Sylvester has dressed some of Aotearoa’s most prominent figures over her tenure, including former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. ⁠Not to mention all the times her designs have graced the pages of Fashion Quarterly

Kate Sylvester's latest collection, 'Gloria Gloria'.

As for the decision behind the brand’s closure, Sylvester reveals that it was not made lightly. “Since the day we opened the doors on that first store in Kitchener Street we have worked incredibly hard for three decades. And now we need to move on to a new chapter in our lives,” she says. 

“Fashion is all about change, something we’ve never feared and always embraced. We want to go out the way we came into this business, still loving what we do and being truly happy to do it.”

Unlike many labels who succumbed to the pressures of the Covid pandemic, Sylvester’s brand was one which continued to flourish amidst the tumultuous climate. Their decision to close comes from the pair’s desire to prioritise other matters outside of the industry. In a space that’s constantly evolving, they now want to make room for the next generation of local fashion talent. ⁠”We believe in the talent of the new generation of NZ designers, it’s your time to shine now,” said Sylvester and Conway. 

Focusing on going out on a high note, Sylvester and Conway have not ruled out a return to the industry some day. 

Imagery: supplied.


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