Women we love
The creative mind behind clothing label Penny Sage
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.
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.