Intrepid designers Margarita Robertson, Tanya Carlson and
Donna Tulloch have invigorated the New Zealand fashion scene
for almost three decades.
They also share the distinction of having shown
their winter collections at every iD Dunedin Fashion Show
from the first event in 2000. Jude Hathaway mines their
memories of iD along with those of Victoria Muir, who has
also been closely involved from the beginning.
Margarita Robertson is highly regarded for the spirited and
unfettered approach to fashion design that typifies the
internationally lauded Nom*D label she and husband Chris
launched in Dunedin in 1986.
She is also known for her support of Dunedin fashion and
vividly remembers the first iD show.
''It amazed me how many members of the public were interested
in attending. It was completely amateur but laid the
foundations for what was to come.''
And the next year, when the show moved to Dunedin Railway
Station, she was equally surprised.
''It was completely perfect [as a venue] and also unexpected.
I thought it would be a one-off venue but rather it has
become an iconic set for the event which now cannot be held
She pointed out that like most venues, ''backstage'' has its
pros and cons, but that every year the organisation gets
''There's a format that must be adhered to for any show to
run smoothly, and experience and diligence has made for a
A number of past shows have clashed with Paris Fashion Week,
which Robertson always attends. However, when she's in
Dunedin she's backstage during her section to ensure looks
are correct and no threads and tags are showing.
''I then go into the audience to view the rest of the show,
on both nights!''
She says an important aspect of the show is the opportunity
it provides for top graduate students taking part.
''It's their first taste of a professionally run catwalk
event and having respect for an event which is essentially a
group show. Some compromises have to be made to ensure the
show's overall success and in this way it's a great learning
experience for them.''
Over the years, show audiences have seen Nom*D maintain its
unique and individual silhouettes.
''It's important,'' says Robertson, ''that Nom*D continues to
sit ahead of the mainstream.''
She also sees iD as being important to the brand.
''It maintains our connection to Dunedin, which is unique in
the world of New Zealand fashion,'' says Robertson, who
mentions the number of people that each year come from
outside Dunedin to attend the show, and rave about it.
''This makes me proud to be living and working here, and
thankful to the people of Dunedin who've made both Nom*D and
Plume a success.''
Tanya Carlson moved her business, which produces the classy
and subtly sexy Carlson women's wear, to Auckland but remains
a ''Dunedin designer''.
She's a long-time member of the voluntary organising
committee of iD Dunedin Fashion Week and the judging panel of
the International Emerging Designer awards, and her Carlson
shop in George St is an enduring reminder of her Dunedin
roots. The ties are strong.
She has many precious iD memories, and after the 2000 Bennu
fashion show knew it was ''the beginning of something''.
But the following year's show at the Dunedin Railway Station
left an even bigger impression, when the longest runway in
the South was covered in gleaming white salt.
''I walked out on to the catwalk before the show started and
thought: `Wow'. It was an extraordinary sight: the salt
looking like a fresh snowfall. It was like no catwalk I'd
ever seen before. That show set the bar. Our `Dressage'
collection on the salt-encrusted catwalk was breathtaking and
the after-party at the Temple Gallery ...''
She recalls details of other years: John Campbell's hilarious
interview with the wonderfully eccentric Mittelmoda director
Stefano Sopelza at the first Emerging Designer awards, the
generosity of Pier 24 opening the kitchens and providing
late-night supper for extremely hungry international judges;
the heavy rain at the 2008 show that saw her mopping up large
pools of water backstage to prevent models breaking their
ankles or being electrocuted; and ''the sheer terror'' of the
first time she walked down the railway station catwalk in the
But, the extraordinary spectacle of Stephen Jones' hats has
made the 2013 show her favourite to date.
''My dresses were modelled with his millinery. To think I
could have had a career anywhere in the world and yet never
had that opportunity!''
Carlson sees a bright future for the railway station show and
iD Dunedin Fashion Week.
''The railway station and Emerging Designer Awards events
celebrate independent fashion design and ingenuity. In an
industry smothered by mass-produced, disposable fashion, the
iD concept is an inspiration for both the audiences and the
''The iD Dunedin week is run by a volunteer committee with
local sponsorship and community support and because it is a
non-profit organisation rooted in education it attracts an
extraordinary calibre of judges and special guests.
''I believe iD is representative of the spirit of Dunedin. It
is innovative, independent and original.''
Donna Tulloch and the ''tough elegance'' of her Mild Red
brand has also weathered the highs and lows of the fickle
fashion industry and she as a designer and businesswoman
knows the importance of the iD concept.
''Mild Red has achieved much more exposure both locally and
internationally and putting together the collection for the
show is like dotting the i's and crossing the t's - it
completes the season's story within a creative experience.''
She remembers vividly the first railway station show.
''It was pure inspiration. With Tim Pollock and Diann Waugh's
design concept it was a total transformation. It was like
stepping into the land of Narnia film set, although the salt
was not so good for the model's footwear I had on loan. But
the salt, the lighting and the sound will not be forgotten.
And I'm sure that all who were there were inspired and it has
driven all who are involved to make each year bigger and
Tulloch also mentioned backstage improvements.
''The rain, or rather the lack of an effective roof, caused
concern early on, as did the poor lighting, which made it
difficult to check the models before they went on to the
She puts the changes down to a supportive and organised team.
From a personal perspective, she has three standout iD shows.
There was her Hundertwasser collection of 2005, inspired by
her meeting artist Friedrich Hundertwasser, who had a passion
for New Zealand. Her 2009 ''Attitude - frame of mind''
collection and collaboration with Christchurch sculptor
Graham Bennett was special, as was her 2011 ''Black Knight''
collection inspired by Joan of Arc.
Her design aesthetic has remained the same but her business
has grown from a small home-based concern in a studio above
the garage to a large studio in Dunedin's CBD and soon, a
She sees Dunedin as a creative city with a world-class design
school, which has communicated its success to a worldwide
audience. It has attracted international designers who have
inspired local talent.
And is there a future for iD?
''Certainly. There is nothing else like it and there can
never be enough funding and support for such an event to
continue. It's crucial.''
Victoria Muir's link with iD Dunedin has been in two main
roles, as a model in the first six railway station shows and
as convener of the iD Dunedin Fashion Week since 2008.
It was a serendipitous beginning. As cultural prefect at St
Hilda's Collegiate School she had organised Margaret Farry
Williams, director of the Vanity Walk Modelling School and
Agency, to speak at a school assembly. Mrs Williams spotted
Victoria's immense potential and signed her up.
A little later Victoria found herself brought in as a fill-in
at the last moment for the first railway station event in
''I was pretty nervous. It was such a long catwalk and it was
a show unlike any other I had been involved in. I also
remember being very cold.''
Those first six consecutive railway shows generated many
memories for Muir, including mastering ''the longest catwalk
in the world'', which for the first few shows remained the
uneven surface of the platform itself rather than the smooth
surface of a raised runway.
To model in the first Emerging Designer Awards show a decade
ago in the large marquee in the Octagon was another memorable
experience, as was being ''the face'' for the artful iD 2006
(behind very large dark glasses).
And always she revelled in the clothes.
''I wore lots of standout outfits. The pale blue velvet
Carlson gown and the Mild Red Hundertwasser outfit I first
wore at New Zealand Fashion Week and then at iD were
favourites, and I enjoyed the fun sections the DotCom brand
In 2004 another chapter opened when she began working for the
show's then convener Annemarie Mains, who in 2007 handed the
reins to her young protégé. Victoria managed her first show
through her own company, Sequel Events, in 2008.
''It's been great working with the committee, particularly in
developing the international element of fashion week. A real
highlight has been being involved in bringing the
international guests such as Zandra Rhodes, Hilary Alexander
and Stephen Jones to Dunedin.''
Another milestone came in 2010 when the decision was made to
add a second night at the railway station.
''This was a big decision for the committee at the time but
has paid off.''