Women we love

The cre­ative mind be­hind cloth­ing la­bel Penny Sage

Your Home and Garden - - Contents - In­ter­view by Sally Conor. Pho­tog­ra­phy by He­len Bankers.

It could be called a style crush – that feel­ing you get when you see a woman who looks cool, el­e­gant, com­fort­able and a lit­tle mys­te­ri­ous, and leaves you won­der­ing, “Where did she get that jumper/top/ dress?” The chances are high that your crush is wear­ing Penny Sage.

Since 2011, this un­der-the-radar cloth­ing la­bel has been gain­ing a de­voted fol­low­ing among cre­ative, in­de­pen­dent women in New Zealand and over­seas. The tal­ent, the vi­sion and the busi­ness brain be­hind Penny is Kate Me­gaw, a de­signer who hails from Tai­hape but now calls Auck­land home.

Af­ter get­ting her start as a de­signer for

Miss Crabb, Kate now dreams, de­signs and sells her col­lec­tions from her Grey Lynn stu­dio. Ev­ery­thing she de­signs is made by lo­cally owned, fam­ily busi­nesses and this com­mit­ment to qual­ity and crafts­man­ship is key to the Penny Sage aes­thetic. These val­ues shine through in Kate’s clothes, which are clean, sim­ple and so­phis­ti­cated but of­ten with a twist, such as an un­ex­pected de­tail, choice of pat­tern or a fab­ric that could only be Penny Sage.

We vis­ited Kate in her stu­dio and talked to her about fash­ion, in­spi­ra­tion and where she goes to recharge.

When did you start Penny Sage and what in­spired you to take the leap?

I started Penny Sage in 2011. I’ve al­ways loved mak­ing clothes and I knew I wanted to be my own boss. I had been work­ing in the fash­ion in­dus­try for a num­ber of years be­fore start­ing Penny Sage and felt that I had gained enough ex­pe­ri­ence to set out on my own. I had so many ideas that I wanted to ex­plore and a strong vi­sion of how I wanted to run a fash­ion busi­ness.

Why did you de­cide to use a name other than your own for the brand?

Sage is my mother’s fam­ily name. I wanted a brand name that I felt per­son­ally con­nected to while also be­ing able to have the se­cu­rity of a pseu­do­nym. It’s the only thing that sep­a­rates me from my busi­ness!

How would you de­scribe the Penny Sage aes­thetic?

I mostly wear Penny Sage, so nat­u­rally I de­sign things that I want to wear. I love nat­u­ral fab­rics and pri­mar­ily use wool, linen, silk and cot­ton in my col­lec­tions be­cause they wear and age so beau­ti­fully. Penny Sage is com­fort­able, re­laxed and pared back. I’m not taken by su­per­flu­ous de­tail­ing so my gar­ments fea­ture sim­ple de­tails that are func­tional. I’m drawn to cloth­ing with unique cut, shape and colour. These el­e­ments are so im­por­tant to me and help me com­mu­ni­cate my story or in­spi­ra­tion each sea­son.

Where do you find in­spi­ra­tion for your de­signs?

I’m ob­sessed with clothes and al­ways have been! I day­dream about shapes, colours and ways of gar­ments go­ing to­gether. When my head is in the right place, I find in­spi­ra­tion in ev­ery­thing. I get most of my colour in­spi­ra­tion in na­ture. I love films and they are of­ten the start­ing point for the feel­ing or mood of a new col­lec­tion. Most of all, I’m in­spired by the amaz­ing women I have in my life. It’s end­lessly fun imag­in­ing wardrobes for them.

“I love nat­u­ral fab­rics and pri­mar­ily use wool, linen, silk and cot­ton in my col­lec­tions”

“I’m ob­sessed with clothes... I day­dream about shapes,

colours and ways of gar­ments go­ing to­gether”

What are the hard­est things about run­ning your own la­bel in Aotearoa?

It’s a small in­dus­try with lim­ited tech­nol­ogy and even more lim­ited re­sources. I have to be cre­ative with what’s on of­fer.

And what are the best things about it?

Work­ing with pas­sion­ate and tal­ented mak­ers who im­part their time, en­ergy and skills into cre­at­ing our gar­ments. And be­ing able to bring de­signs to life makes ev­ery work­day spe­cial.

Which other lo­cal cre­atives in­spire you? Who are your de­sign he­roes?

There are so many amaz­ingly tal­ented peo­ple in New Zealand. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some cre­atives that in­spire me the most. These in­clude pho­tog­ra­pher Leilani Heather, tex­tile artist Marta Buda, jew­eller Zelda Mur­ray and painter Imo­gen Tay­lor, to name a few.

What is your favourite step in the process of cre­at­ing a new col­lec­tion?

I am a tac­tile per­son so I get a lot of joy out of pat­tern mak­ing, sewing and putting gar­ments to­gether. How­ever, I think the most re­ward­ing step for me is when we pho­to­graph the col­lec­tion and I can fi­nally see months of hard work come to­gether.

How do you re­lax and recharge away from work?

I love to visit my fam­ily who live in a small ru­ral area near the Ran­gi­tikei River where I grew up. I hang out with the an­i­mals and eat de­li­cious veg­eta­bles that my dad grows. It couldn’t be fur­ther from the Auck­land fash­ion scene and for me it’s the best way to feel grounded and re­freshed.

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STU­DIO LIFE Kate works out of a space in Auck­land’s Grey Lynn, which dou­bles as a shop sell­ing Penny Sage and work by other lo­cal de­sign­ers on Satur­days.

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