Three Wellington designers take Phoebe Watt on a tour of their dynamic city
Wellington designers open the doors to their studios and the city
Okewa is very much a brand born of its environment, inspired not only by the Wellington climate, but the lifestyle. “The idea came to me a few years ago when I was working at the other end of the waterfront,” says Nevada Leckie. “It was a 40-minute walk and in winter it was a struggle because I didn’t have a good raincoat.”
Unable to find an adequate coat in stores, Nevada decided to put her fashion design degree to use and make her own. What started as pattern-making in her spare time soon led to Nevada quitting her job and focusing all her energies on making and testing toiles. Shortly afterwards she was joined by her husband Nick, who has a background in architecture, and the couple launched Okewa via Kickstarter in 2014. The brand was quickly inundated with orders from as far away as Scandinavia, Mexico and Southeast Asia. “That was nice validation – that the story didn’t just resonate here,” says Nick.
Auckland concept store The Shelter has just signed on to carry the brand’s winter 2016 range and, following on from the success of their Wellington pop-up store in 2015, there’s talk of an Auckland pop-up
and, perhaps someday, pop-ups around the world. Today, Okewa has a Morrinsville based pattern maker and an Aucklandbased fabric partner who imports fabrics from Japan. An Auckland manufacturer seam-seals the fabrics and produces the garments, while everything else – from design and dispatch to big-picture stuff – is done by Nevada and Nick in the front room of their cliff-side home on Oriental Terrace.
Wellington is the ideal testing ground for what is a highly technical product, says Nick. “It’s a compact city, so it’s a pedestrian city. Everyone is commuting everywhere on foot, stopping in at their favourite café along the way, and we want to accommodate that. Our coats aren’t intended for someone who gets into their car in the garage and drives to their covered car-park at work.” From day one though, the couple’s thinking was that if they could get the waterproofing right for Wellington, “which is basically the windiest city on earth”, it was going to work elsewhere.
Nevada says the technical side of things has demanded a lot of upskilling. There’s much talk of fabrics being breathable up to 10,000 millilitres, or possibly millimetres (I couldn’t get my head around it). But I believe Nick when he says you’ll never get a drop of water through an Okewa coat. “At least for our uses. We’re not climbing Mount Everest.”
Instead, Nick and
Nevada are living the life that the product has been designed to support. This includes walking along the Wellington waterfront, spending Sunday mornings at the Harbourside Market – “we are there rain or shine, that’s why we need the coats!” – and hanging out in cafés. Deluxe Espresso Bar on Kent Terrace is a favourite. “It’s a bit grungier than anything down on Oriental Parade,” says Nevada. “They scream your name out when your coffee is ready and you go up to the counter and get it yourself, it’s one of those classic Wellington experiences.”
Nick says it’s this unpretentiousness that makes Wellington such a great place to live. “And everyone here is so supportive,” he says. “People have been so forthcoming and willing to assist where they can. It’s a really collaborative community.”
Okewa was launched
via Kickstarter in 2014 and was quickly inundated with orders from as far away as
No longer just famous for being that place Orlando Bloom wore that Huffer T-shirt that time, Wellington is contributing much more to the New Zealand fashion landscape than ever before. After interviewing three leading designers and consuming countless trim flat whites, our writer discovered a hub of creatives who thrive in the city’s community environment.
Deluxe, one of Wellington’s quirky cafés. Nick and Nevada Leckie wear designs from their
The husbandand-wife team talk shop at home, which is also their design base.
Anjali Stewart (left) and Rachel Easting, founders and designers of Twenty-seven Names.
Anjali at the City
Racks of Okewa raincoats line the couple’s front room.