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Jack Yan

Undone Rachel Webb and Elise Barnes at their ID breakfast talk

The rise and rise of Undone

Jack Yan checks out Undone, one of Lucire’s must-have labels from New Zealand’s deep south, and the stand-out at ID Dunedin Fashion Week
photographed by Matthew Beveridge/Matthew Beveridge Photography





Matthew Beveridge/Matthew Beveridge Photography

Above On the catwalk at ID Dunedin Fashion Week.

Elise Barnes and Rachel Webb, the designers behind Undone, featured in Lucire soon after they graduated from Otago Polytechnic. The pair, who met while studying, hatched the idea to launch Undone while at Otago, and they were undeniably the new name to watch at ID Dunedin Fashion Week last month.

There was plenty that bore the Undone name that week: a charity auction for Lifeline held with another cool Dunedin label, Moodie Tuesday and jeweller Steph Miller of Creeps and Violets, in the context of a mixed-media event with music, art and film. Lucire photographer Matthew Beveridge raved about the location, and the fact the labels raised a decent amount for charity—during the week we received news that one jacket went for over NZ$2,000—helped raise their profile before the main event.

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In 2011, we said they were the label to watch—not an accolade we give lightly. The rise and rise of Undone can’t have been lost on ID’s organizers, either, with the duo then appearing on the Thursday for part of the breakfast series, where fashionistas and media get to hear a talk given by the designers.

The pair could not be more different, and that was something they acknowledged. Barnes describes her style as ‘soft, romantic and feminine’, while Webb uses words such as ‘edgy, harder, biker look’ and ‘androgynous’, and that comes through in their approach, too. Both claimed to be nervous prior to the breakfast talk—though it never showed—but Webb insisted she was the less vocal of the two, preferring that her business partner did more of the talking.

Undone began with a small graduate collection at Otago Polytechnic as an experiment to see if they could collaborate. They recognized that they were opposites, and that in the tension, there would be creativity. The name had also come from their opposing approaches.

That first effort was the collection that wound up at ID in 2011, and it was the autumn–winter 2012 collection, A Dream within a Dream, that caught this magazine’s eye later that year. It also proved that it was no fluke, and that Webb and Barnes were on to something.

‘Everything was done in-house, with pattern-making through to marketing,’ says Webb, and the two still take this approach today.

The spring–summer 2012–13 collection, Electric Guitars in Cotton Fields, spoke to the pair’s contrasting nature again, with a Jimi Hendrix and 1960s’ inspiration. It also saw a collaboration with Motion Sickness Studio, a local company producing trendy, up-to-the-minute videos. Motion Sickness also shares principals with Moodie Tuesday.

Undone underwent ‘managed growth, keeping small,’ say the designers, who now have five stockists nationally, including Dunedin’s Salisbury Boutique, with whom they share a building.

The autumn–winter 2013 collection, Mustang Runnin’, seen at ID has a bad boy–biker look, featuring leather, fur, goat skin, cowhide and heavy knitwear. The theme tells a story of a girl falling in love with a cowboy, and it was important to the designers to ‘keep it quite fun’.

Of the collections shown at ID (a separate story, with video, is coming later this week), Undone was, in our opinion, the most notable of the New Zealand labels. On the night, we picked Nom D, Tamsin Cooper, Undone, Mister and Mild Red as our favourites, out of an exceptionally strong field. Barnes and Webb may have a creative tension, but their genius lies in using it well: the fabrics contrasted and complemented themselves beautifully, the designs successfully walked the fine line between femininity and androgyny, and the overall effect was beautiful. Gentle florals mixed with hard leathers, a brassière had an industrial geometry contrasting with the soft forms of a loose jacket, and a fur and leather jacket ended at the waist, taking tough materials but giving them a youthful, light cut.

We’re looking forward to their next efforts, as we’re not seeing any let-up in the magic. The rise and rise of Undone is going to continue. •

 

 

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Matthew Beveridge/Matthew Beveridge Photography

 

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Jack Yan is publisher of Lucire.