An Interview with Emilia Wickstead
Celebrating women across the world, New Zealand designer Emilia Wickstead has collaborated with The Woolmark Company to create a collection that was inspired by her passion, so we had to find out more and of course get her tips on visiting New Zealand.
QT: What was your reason for collaborating with The Woolmark Company on this campaign?
EW: Going back to New Zealand for this project was truly special for me. The collection that we have created with Woolmark is a modern workwear collection made from 100% Australian merino wool. Woolmark do great things around the perception of wool, about how and when it can be worn and with this collection, we explored how to reimagine an iconic fibre in a modern way. It really made the project so unique and an exciting opportunity to do something different whilst celebrating New Zealand women in all their remarkable achievements.
QT: You have dedicated your project to the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand and will be donating a percentage of the collection to Smart Works, how do you think this benefits the modern-day female?
EW: Smart Works is a charity that is very close to my heart. It is a wonderful organization that supports and empowers women struggling with unemployment by providing them with the necessary skills and confidence for job interviews, preparing them for their entry into the work place. As a woman in business myself, I am proud to be donating a percentage of garments from this collaboration to Smart Works, so that my fellow women can feel a sense of pride and both look and feel the part when entering the workplace.
QT: Please can you explain your reason behind calling the collection ‘Ordinary Yet Extraordinary Women’?
EW: The inspiration for this collection came from the everyday women of New Zealand. I am so proud of my roots, and I wanted to celebrate these women for the extraordinary things they achieve and for their strong connections between whānau (family), hoa (friends) and Papatūānuku (Mother Earth). We have grown so accustomed to seeing a particular kind of face in the media and I wanted this project to represent all of us – to celebrate and empower all women and explore the various ways each one of us is contributing and forging our own paths in the world.
QT: Where is your favourite place to visit in New Zealand?
EW: One of my favourite places is Waiheke Island or in the Coromandel. The idea is to be on the beach whenever you can. Everything is tucked away and is a haven for vineyards, olive groves and beaches. Waihike Island is 40 minutes by boat from Auckland. Stock up at The Island Grocer, which has amazing brands and fresh produce that you can take over to the beach.
QT: When you do visit your hometown, Auckland, what are the top experiences you must do whilst you are there?
EW: Auckland is a fantastic city. It has definitely changed over time, but each year I visit I find the new additions brilliant and exciting. Everyone is so humble and down to earth. The city is surrounded by water; it’s calm and incredibly relaxed. I love the smell of clean air, walking barefoot on the sand, fish and chips and the beach. A visit to a marae is a must. They are dotted around the city and are the focal point of Maori communities throughout New Zealand. A marae is a fenced-in complex of carved buildings and grounds that belong to a particular tribe or family. Maori people see them as their sacred meeting place. Do try and catch a traditional Maori war dance when you visit; to me, it’s so nostalgic and is one of the best experiences. Maori groups also perform at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
QT: Do you have any travel tips for those visiting New Zealand?
EW: Be sure to enjoy everything that New Zealand has to offer, experience the breath-taking landscape of the North island and the vibrant cosmopolitan cities. To really experience the Maori culture, Rotorua is the place to visit. There you can find the most lovely natural hot springs, geysers and lakes. Be sure to try the traditional Hangi – a Maori feast cooked in an earth oven and spend afternoons exploring the crafts markets.
QT: What kind of holiday do you look for? Is it adventure travel, beach destinations, exploration getaways etc?
EW: For me and my family, we always will look for something calm and relaxing. I really get inspired whilst away explore local culture, architecture, food and of course fashion and materials.
QT: What has been your most surprising travel discovery?
EW: Recently on a return trip to New Zealand, I stayed in the most incredible small boutique hotel called The Boat Shed, as suggested to me by Quintessentially Travel – it was bliss. The attention to detail was like no other: the cosiest little home with the warmest furnishings and wood fires. You can lie poolside or walk down to the beach in two minutes and eat ice cream from the local dairy.
QT: Where are you hoping to tick off next on your travel bucket list?
EW: Palm Springs is next on my travel checklist, I have wanted to visit Joshua Tree National Park for a while now as one of the most magical places on the West Coast.
QT: You moved to Milan, the fashion capital of the world, with your mother at the age of 14, what impact did this transition have on your ambition to be a fashion designer?
EW: Milan in those days was the centre of fashion and I think it opened my eyes to a new world, very different to New Zealand. Working in fashion definitely became a realisation living in Milan. I remember living in Pavia, which was the most incredible world imaginable. I had never seen a luxury designer store in my life. My mother and I would tour them and she would teach me about good-quality fabrics versus something that was terribly produced; she would point out clever design details and turn a garment inside out and explain internal finishings to me. I quickly developed an understanding for the importance of an item of clothing being as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside.
QT: Where does the inspiration for your designs come from?
EW: Inspiration for me comes really from many different sources. I am inspired by haute couture designers of the times past, inspirational women in the world and in film. I am always thinking about the Emilia Wickstead women when I am designing my clothes, staying close to what they would wear and always with the intention that each piece can remain a key piece of their wardrobe for years to come.
QT: Where in the world do you feel most at home?
EW: For me it has to be in London, I moved here to study at Central St Martins, I built my business opening a store on Sloane street and am bringing up my family here. I love getting lost in London’s charm, grandeur and heritage. Going out and experiencing the city’s culture is always something that continuously inspires me in the city.
For more information on visiting New Zealand please contact our Travel Specialists.