Kingston home to creative fashion designer

Fashion designer Jane Sutherland (right) strides along the catwalk at the 2012 iD Dunedin Fashion Show. Photo by Chris Sullivan/ID Fashion.
Fashion designer Jane Sutherland (right) strides along the catwalk at the 2012 iD Dunedin Fashion Show. Photo by Chris Sullivan/ID Fashion.

When it comes to fashion capitals, the tiny settlement of Kingston is unlikely to feature alongside the likes of Paris or Milan.

But fashion designer Jane Sutherland has grown to love the lifestyle that came with living in the village, with a population of about 250, on the southern shore of Lake Wakatipu.

Established in 2004, the eponymous Jane Sutherland label had dealt with many challenges, including its location.

But with a lot of hard work and determination, there was no other option than to make it work, Ms Sutherland said.

She was brought up in Invercargill, her childhood surrounded by creativity, and she recalled watching her father, a self-taught jeweller, tinkering away in the garage, making anything from a Sunburst sailboat to metalwork creations that later evolved into jewellery.

She had an interest in many areas of design, including a strong passion for photography - ''to this day, I find it hard to put the camera down on a daily basis, leaving me with huge files of images waiting to be edited'' - but never envisaged she would end up as a fashion designer.

She spent a year training in Dunedin under Georg Beer at the Fluxus contemporary jewellery gallery.

It was while she was at Fluxus that her partner, Duane Hibbs, who was in Invercargill, saw the garage in Kingston was for sale and decided he would like a lifestyle change and asked if she wanted to accompany him.

While it was ''a bit of a shock'' initially and it took about six months to settle in, she now loved it and would not leave, she said.

Kingston was a ''wonderful'' place to raise son Victor (3) and, combined with trips to the city, a nice balance had developed.

While it could feel a little isolated at times, particularly not being surrounded by other like-minded creative people, technology meant she could work from anywhere.

There was also the advantage of being able to go down to the lake in the morning for a swim or kayak, or hopping in the boat at night and going fishing.

Initially, it was rings and other pieces of jewellery that began to evolve from the Kingston workshop and were sold in select New Zealand galleries.

Metal designs were bolted to T-shirts - painstaking hours were spent making the nuts and bolts - and Plume in Dunedin and Angel Divine in Queenstown were the first to stock them. It was those T-shirts and a love of fashion that led Ms Sutherland to create a clothing label. With a love of history, time spent studying the legend of King Arthur, among other mediaeval tales, led to the placing of the Excalibur sword in her logo.

Now stocking eight stores nationally, Ms Sutherland felt the time was right to create an online store that would eventually showcase unique designs incorporating metalwork. Those designs would not be for the mass market and were ''something a little special''.

Russell Sutherland, from Company of Strangers, and Sara Muntz, from Gaia Jewellery, were on board with ''some amazing jewellery'' and a collaboration with an ''exciting artist or two'' would be forthcoming, she said.

Ms Sutherland's inspiration came from many sources, including shapes, sculptures, architecture, characters in literature, history, film, music, nature or ''anything I find interesting''.

''I save all these thoughts and ideas into a confused folder and then find the right time to translate its contents in the right way.''

When it came to other fashion labels, she loved the likes of Alexander McQueen, Alexander Wang, Vivienne Westwood, Rick Owens and Nom*D.

Ms Sutherland admitted she found it hard at times to create garments that were creative with a point of difference, yet commercial enough to sell.

''It can be a fine line on whether or not you like creating commercial clothes or living a more complicated life,'' she said.

While she understood the main focus was on wearability, the art aspect should not be lost in the process.

She acknowledged there had been times when she thought she would ''pack it in'' and there had been plenty of ups and downs.

She did not know a lot about the fashion industry when she first entered it, and had to learn everything along the way. But she loved her work and wanted to ''keep doing what I'm doing''.

She wanted to focus on having her online store going well and building it into a ''real shopping experience'', while also wholesaling to selected stores, building on the brand and ''keeping things growing''.

She was delighted to be selected for the 2013 iD Dunedin Fashion Show in March, saying it was always a pleasure to be involved. She first showed at the event in 2009.

The event continued to grow and it had helped designers build their brand and brand awareness. She looked forward to it each year and enjoyed showing alongside other labels, like Nom*D.

This year, she will be showcasing six outfits in the capsule collection comprising a vibrant purple ''Ziggy Stardust'' jacket - ''something David Bowie would not have looked out of place wearing on ''The Spiders From Mars'' tour - mixed with a palette of blues, a little handcrafted metalwork and a hint of black.

sally.rae@odt.co.nz

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