A STITCH IN TIME

IT TAKES MONTHS OF WORK TO CRE­ATE EIGHT MIN­UTES ON THE CAT­WALK, AND IT’S NEVER DRAMA-FREE – EVEN FOR ONE OF AUS­TRALIA’S MOST SUC­CESS­FUL OUT­FITS. WISH FOL­LOWED ZIM­MER­MANN FROM SYD­NEY TO NEW YORK FASH­ION WEEK 2018.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - MOTORING W - MILANDA ROUT STEVE BACCON

There are four boxes sit­ting on one side of a meet­ing room at an open-plan ware­house of­fice in Syd­ney. These boxes are three­quar­ters full and are cov­ered in white tis­sue paper. The only clue that there is some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary in these boxes is the be­hav­iour of the peo­ple around them. There is a steady hum of voices com­ing from the next level, the whir of sewing ma­chines, chat­ter about fab­rics, get­ting the fin­ishes right. For these boxes hold Zim­mer­mann’s spring 2019 col­lec­tion. They are bound for New York and will ap­pear on a run­way in ex­actly 12 days.

“A show is on av­er­age eight min­utes but the level of work re­quired and the months and months of cre­ative heartache – every­one feels it,” Nicky Zim­mer­mann tells WISH on this late Au­gust day. “The per­son that sends the col­lec­tion feels it, the pro­duc­tion team work­ing on it there [in New York] feels it. I think there is a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity felt by the en­tire team. It en­cap­su­lates our en­tire busi­ness – for just EIGHT min­utes. It is kind of crazy, that is what it is. We prob­a­bly have the big­gest mo­ments of heartache and the big­gest mo­ments of joy.”

Zim­mer­mann and her team have been work­ing on this col­lec­tion for more than six months but to­day is the day they have to send it as Nicky is leav­ing to­mor­row. The clock is tick­ing, yet some boxes are not full, some looks not fin­ished. A patch­work mini-dress with ruf­fled trim is still on a man­nequin be­ing ad­justed while other hands are madly – but very care­fully -- run­ning del­i­cate white scal­loped fab­ric through a sewing ma­chine.

This is Aus­tralia’s most suc­cess­ful fash­ion house in full swing. Zim­mer­mann started in 1991 as a mar­ket stall, and now Nicky and her sis­ter, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Si­mone, have 32 stores around the world and are about to show in New York for the eighth year run­ning.

“This is now be­ing sent to­day be­cause yes­ter­day we did a thor­ough re­view on it. No,” Nicky cor­rects her­self, a calm voice amd the buzz of last-minute pro­duc­tion. “Yes­ter­day I styled it, so the day be­fore, that is when we did the full re­view.” That re­view in­volved a team of about 50 peo­ple, from mem­bers of her de­sign depart­ment to col­leagues in in­ter­na­tional whole­sale. It is not easy hav­ing your work cri­tiqued at such a late stage in the de­sign process. “You need peo­ple with a strong opin­ion who are game enough to say it to us,” she says. “If they go ‘that looks ter­ri­ble’, you are like, ‘shit, we have been work­ing on that for months!’ But one of the big­gest things I have learnt – and one of the hard­est things – is to lis­ten, par­tic­u­larly when you are very at­tached and close to some­thing. We don’t see what they are see­ing, we only see the draw­ings in our mind.”

Those draw­ings and that orig­i­nal idea first ger­mi­nated in Nicky’s head way back at the start of the year. It be­gan as an ob­ser­va­tion of the chang­ing po­lit­i­cal cli­mate, par­tic­u­larly in re­gards to women’s rights. “There is so much hap­pen­ing in the world at the mo­ment that peo­ple are talk­ing about, which is quite in­spir­ing and thought­pro­vok­ing for most cre­ative peo­ple,” Nicky told WISH back in March. “It made me think about Aus­tralia and how we think it is or was a con­ser­va­tive place.” But then she re­mem­bered the fa­mously racy Aus­tralian soap opera Num­ber 96, which ran from 1972-78. “It was about sex and drugs and there was a gay cou­ple. It was also set in an apart­ment block in Padding­ton – I lived in Padding­ton, my first store was in Padding­ton, we sold at Padding­ton Mar­kets, I went to de­sign school in nearby Dar­linghurst. As a young per­son, go­ing to the mar­kets, go­ing to stores on Ox­ford Street, it was ev­ery­thing, par­tic­u­larly com­ing from the suburbs.

“There was a ve­neer of con­ser­vatism in Aus­tralia but what was ac­tu­ally go­ing on, es­pe­cially in these cre­ative hubs like Padding­ton, was in­cred­i­ble. For me it is ev­ery­thing that we are talk­ing about now but we were al­ready talk­ing about it then. I thought it was just re­ally in­ter­est­ing and re­ally for­ward. The fash­ion was also amaz­ing and the whole thing ap­pealed to me.”

Once her mind be­came fo­cused on Num­ber 96, Nicky be­gan re­search­ing the show and the fash­ion of the era. In what she de­scribes as a “trea­sure hunt”, she dug up im­ages and de­tails from the 70s and put them on a mood board in her of­fice for the col­lec­tion. There are im­ages from the show; “The nude, rude go­ings on at Aus­tralia’s most out­ra­geous and in­fa­mous ad­dress” is the catchcry. There are close­ups of tuxe­dos, flares, sun­glasses, hats and other fash­ion from the time. There is even an im­age of a TV colour test patch – with its tiny black and white and coloured squares – and sta­tion lo­gos. But how does that trans­late into an ac­tual show?

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