ABATINI is one of those rare labels
that has a familiar story to Lucire's: it is more better
known outside New Zealand. Eighty per cent of our production
goes to Australia, relayed Tony Milich, founder of the label.him instantly. Today, Sabatini sees its brand as the one that takes
the credit, rather than any particular designer, and Milich can
still be seen at the end of catwalk shows, proudly taking his bow.
Milich is a familiar face to fashion writers:
an oft-awarded designer in the days of New Zealands Benson
& Hedges Fashion Design Awards, most commentators will recognize
It is not Milich alone. Sharing the limelight
at these shows often is his sister, Margie Evans. During our interview,
Evans popped by and confirmed that this was still very much a family
firmwhere familial commitment, vision and trust rule the day
more than profit margins.
Milich is one to speak frankly about the state
of New Zealand fashion. Sabatini has become one of the countrys
export success stories and its relatively quiet profile in its home
country can be immediately contrasted with the cachet it holds in
Australia. In major stores, Sabatini takes pride of place, considered
more sophisticated than European imports. Buyers for these Australian
boutiques and chains are anything but dumb: they know a good thing
when they see it, and Lucire has often considered Sabatini
one of its favouritesas it did last year at LOréal
New Zealand Fashion Week.
In fact, the Sabatini reputation is so strong
that when Milichs niece Danielle showed at Sydney under the
Milich & Morton label, the Australian media were quick to seize
on the Sabatini dynasty.
Sabatini's Tony Milich speaks highly of the Australian
consumer and buyer: 'Australian buyers are international fashion
travellers and they view the best world fashion there is on offer.
'Many of these professional buyers regard Sabatini
as an international label, with a proven sell-through record encompassing
over 12 years.'
Sabatini White will be shown at both Air New Zealand
Fashion Week and Mercedes Australian Fashion Week Melbourne, and
Lucire has already taken a quick peek at what the label will
send down the catwalk-sophisticated and complete are two words that
come to mind. Sabatini White will show distinctive trim and pocket
details. And to be totally sure, we hopped over to Australia to
observe that Sabatini's base in Toorak was busier than American
presidential campaign headquarters, with Evans and her husband running
Australia is key to Sabatini's expansion, including
to the United States where it already has a footholdCalifornia
is first, aiming at 20 boutiques early next year.
To become world-class, 'a label must succeed in
Australia before exporting further afield. By establishing the label
there, the stepping stones to new markets will unfold!' said Milich.
He has not been delighted at New Zealand governmental
efforts to aid exports, however. I think that New Zealand
government agencies need to become more flexible if they
are to materially assist fashion exporting. Exporting high-priced
niche fashion has many detailed factors only unique to fashion!
The CER [closer economic relations]
with [Communist] China creates further controversy and requires
more lateral thinking, he said.
As to the autumn-winter 2005 collection, Milich
revealed that Sabatini would continue to 'invent'. '[We] create
a lot of our own fabrics and colours to give unique surface interest.
We follow up with styling that is fashion-forward with a definite
edge!' Expect a full range from coats to accessories. The Californians
will, we expect, love it.
For our full autumnwinter 2005 Air New Zealand
Fashion Week preview, check out the November 2004 issue of Lucire,
on newsstands in New Zealand October 4. Click
here to subscribe on our secure server (click OK
if you get a warning window).
Jack Yan is founding publisher of Lucire.