A stylist’s love of Asia

NZ Life & Leisure - - News - WORDS C H ERE E M O R R I SON

1974–1978 Makora Col­lege, Wairarapa Claire’s par­ents were firm be­liev­ers that ev­ery­one should be free to ex­plore their pas­sions. With that in mind, she em­barked on a sev­en­th­form ex­change to Mel­bourne. “That was the fur­thest I would ven­ture; I was a bit of a scaredy- cat. I grew up on a Wairarapa farm, so the big city was an education. I had al­ready learned to sew as there was no such thing as teenage cloth­ing, but in Mel­bourne I dis­cov­ered fash­ion and knew that would be my ca­reer.”

1981–1987 Welling­ton Polytech­nic, Cer­tifi­cate of Cloth­ing and Tex­tiles; de­signer, Anatomy Cloth­ing Com­pany The two-year course taught the ba­sics and stu­dents were then ex­pected to work for an es­tab­lished brand, but Claire had other plans. With a friend, she launched Anatomy. “It was the be­gin­ning of street wear and uni­sex fash­ion – we were all about black. We started at a lo­cal mar­ket, then made to de­mand. It was a good time to be in fash­ion, there were no im­ports, and we had no idea that be­ing in busi­ness could be dif­fi­cult. We made clothes dur­ing the week, sold them at the week­end mar­ket, then sim­ply made more. Welling­ton was a thriv­ing, cre­ative city with an ex­cit­ing com­mu­nity of like­minded peo­ple.” 1987–1997 Stylist and cos­tume de­signer, Hong Kong and Sin­ga­pore Anatomy closed and an ex- pat friend sug­gested Hong Kong. “‘Come, be a stylist,’ he said, and I asked, ‘ What’s that?’ A week af­ter ar­riv­ing I was on a shoot on a su­per yacht, car­ry­ing a wed­ding dress train up and down a lad­der.” Be­ing able to sew and cre­ate cos­tumes opened doors and Claire’s CV filled with TV com­mer­cials, ac­tion films, Bri­tish TV se­ries, stage shows and con­certs – from Pub­lic En­emy to Na­talie Cole. She also took over look­ing af­ter the per­sonal re­quests of stars while on set. As her flair for cos­tume de­sign be­come more rec­og­nized, Claire split her time be­tween Hong Kong and Sin­ga­pore be­fore be­com­ing an art di­rec­tor for TV com­mer­cials. “Some jobs were sur­real – such as work­ing on a Pepsi com­mer­cial in Cairo at the stu­dio in which the film Cleopa­tra was shot (in the 1960s). We built an Amer­i­can diner over­look­ing the pyra­mids.”

1997–2011 Free­lance stylist and cos­tume de­signer, Auck­land “I re­turned home im­pul­sively. I’d picked up a copy of the NZ Her­ald while in Hong Kong, and thought, ‘ Why am I here?’ Hong Kong had be­come a re­gion of China and friends were leav­ing, it was time to go. I picked up jobs in New Zealand (in­clud­ing Her­cules and Xena) and of­ten trav­eled back to Asia – in­clud­ing for my ab­so­lute dream job with Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jack­son pro­duc­tion.” Big brands be­came big busi­ness, e.g. cos­tum­ing a 1700s funeral for a Jame­son Ir­ish whisky com­mer­cial. “Ev­ery job was dif­fer­ent, and ev­ery crew was dif­fer­ent, but I found my place by be­ing pas­sion­ate.”

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