Fashion Week Diaries: Day one with FQ editor Zoe Walker Ahwa

27 August 2019
By Fashion Quarterly

Fashion Quarterly editor Zoe Walker Ahwa shares her diary from day one of NZFW, at the official opening, Kate Sylvester’s moving show – and the after party.

Roughly 5am
I’m wide awake, lying there thinking about all of the things I need to get through today; mostly emails. There was an intimate dinner last night with David Jones at The French Café, where I was lucky to sit next to Kate Sylvester and her partner Wayne Conway. They’d been at the venue earlier in the day testing a few things for their opening show tonight, but they seem surprisingly relaxed.

The alarm goes off and I’m up after hitting snooze. I wish I could say I do something mindful and wholesome to start my day but it’s really more a rush out the door scenario. Literally the first thing on my to-do list when I get to the office is ‘EAT BREAKFAST’.

I spend the morning at my desk catching up on emails, including a few last minute music edits for our FQ and Miss FQ show at NZ Fashion Weekend on Saturday (fashion’s favourite DJ Soraya has mixed it for us and it’s SO GOOD). We have a last minute team catch-up to go over the week ahead, and to make sure that someone from the team will be at every show. Our fashion stylist Benjamin Alexander has his own show on Wednesday morning, and while some designers would be frazzled juggling that with a full-time job, but he’s completely relaxed. Chill vibes only this week!

I’m running late for my appointment at Bobbi Brown with the lovely Rae – doing makeup is definitely not my strong suit, so having someone do it for me during NZFW is such a treat. She’s been briefed that my makeup vibe is very “pared back” and “low-key”, but pushes me a little further than my usual no makeup makeup approach – a natural, peachy look leaving me fresh-faced and glowy.

A quick dash home to change into tonight’s outfit: a vintage dress from Kate Sylvester’s archive, generously lent to me for the evening. I’ve decided to wear vintage/archival pieces this week rather than opting for new things – this one is from Kate’s 2005 show Stop Your Sobbing; an iconic NZFW moment.

She’s including pieces from her archive in her show tonight – reflecting her cool new Reloved initiative – so it seems fitting to be wearing something special like this. A happy surprise is that it obviously conjures a few memories too, with people coming up to me all night to share their memories of the show or shopping the collection back in the day.

Oops, I’m running late again. I miss the first part of NZFW founder Dame Pieter Stewart’s speech, but make it to the Town Hall in time to hear her talk about the week’s focus on sustainability and inclusivity.

I think the conversation is essential and much needed, but hope it continues beyond NZFW – and we see some genuine action and change as well as the panels and speeches. But I know that the majority of people in our industry – including the next generation of those coming into their power – ARE truly genuine in their desire to push for change and diversity. I’m feeling positive about our industry.

There’s a real optimistic energy in the air at the opening, with the new Town Hall venue looking truly grand and spectacular – and some incredibly chic guests too (see some of our party photos here).

We make our way into the venue nearby in Aotea Square for Kate Sylvester’s show, where the runway is awash in a sea of gorgeous love letters (which will be repurposed later as garment packaging).

It’s a very personal collection and show for Kate: inspired by a box that she discovered containing her parents’ love letters, written to each other early in their relationship in the ‘50s. I know how close she is to her parents – they often attended shows in the past, sitting in the front row with her sons – so I definitely get misty eyed when I read that the show is “my tribute to their love”.

The collection itself is classic KS when she indulges her poetic side: romantic lace, heritage suiting, outdoorsy elements (I’m going to need that lilac skirt suit worn with the Barbour wellies). The letters on the runway became even more windswept as the show progresses, flying around the runway and backdrop, adding to the emotion and drama.

Also very cool: the show incorporates vintage garments from the KS archive, and veteran Kiwi models Penny Pickard, Tia Woods and Veronica Crockford-Pound walk too (part of our FQ NZFQ bingo; check it out and play along on our Instagram). And the band Purple Pilgrims perform live (read about these dream girls in our latest issue!).

I always try to head backstage straight after a show to congratulate the designer; something no one else really does these days. It’s old school – a throwback to when journalists would hurry backstage to get the “scoop” from the designer about their “inspiration”.

I do it more as a personal thing: the creative teams behind-the-scenes put so much hard work and passion into these shows, and it’s important to acknowledge that. I race backstage to give Kate a hug, and while I’m there take a quick snap of FQ contributor Chloe Hill who’s dressed in a chocolate brown coat (read about her jetset life and a few travel tips here).

The rest of the team are very sensible and head home, except for features director Emma and I who head to Kate’s after party at the new space from gallery and auction house Bowerbank Ninow.

The venue is so great – on the ninth floor of an inner city building, with a terrace area aglow in pink light and open to the sky above. Simon from the brand Ingrid Starnes comments on Instagram later that it feels like “1980 came back to party”, which I adore.

Hang on: how am I still out?! Emma’s gone home – sensible; it’s only day one – but I’m still here. It’s easy to be dismissive about fashion week after parties, but it’s actually often where you get the best gossip and insight from designers, models, guests.

There’s no gossip tonight – well, none that I can divulge here – but I do get to catch up with a few of my favourite fashion people like stylist and NZFW ambassador Sammy Salsa.

Home! It’s been a long day and there’s only been one show. I hop into bed with a hot water bottle (my one sensible decision tonight), and cuddle into my husband and cats. Goodnight!

Find out more about FQ editor-in-chief Zoe Walker Ahwa here and follow her on Instagram here.

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