CAP­I­TAL GAINS

Three Welling­ton de­sign­ers take Phoebe Watt on a tour of their dy­namic city

Fashion Quarterly - - Contents - NICK AND NE­VADA LECKIE Okewa Rain­wear

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

Scan­di­navia

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.

@oke­warain­wear

Deluxe, one of Welling­ton’s quirky cafés. Nick and Ne­vada Leckie wear de­signs from their

la­bel Okewa.

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

Art Gallery.

@twen­ty­seven­names

Racks of Okewa rain­coats line the cou­ple’s front room.

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