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Featurette

THE DESIGNER

Since its inception in 1986, NOM*D has been among a small number of directional fashion labels which have been responsible for defining the style that is now referred to as The New Zealand Look. As one of the ground-breaking New Zealand Four who showed at London Fashion Week in 1999, NOM*D firmly established the dark, intellectual qualities that are now synonymous with New Zealand design.

In part, the label owes its noir-ish aesthetic to Dunedin, a city situated in the remote, rugged surroundings of New Zealand's South Island where NOM*D's designer Margarita and her husband Chris Robertson are still based today. A university town, with an international reputation for its alternative music scene, and a preternaturally gothic atmosphere, the culture of Dunedin permeates the mood of Robertson's clothes.

Margarita was born of Greek/Ukrainian refugee background. A pre-occupation with fashion has been with Margi since childhood. As a young girl she was a devout op-shopper. That passion for vintage continues in her designs now with reworked vintage pieces frequently included in the range, alongside deconstructed, androgynous suiting and clever knitwear that defies traditional concepts of structure and texture.

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THE BRAND

Dark and wittily sombre, NOM*D has created an iconic image on the New Zealand fashion landscape. The label's designs, which reference traditional tailoring use reworked vintage garments, are anchored by utilitarian approach and the concept that clothes must, above all else, be wearable.

Deconstruction and customisation are key themes in every NOM*D collection. In winter 2005, vintage knitwear was one of the inspirations for a range that turned the notion of the classic twinset on its head. Like strange siamese twins, NOM*D twinsets join at the bottom in mirror-image fashion ad double up on each other. Other kits are given twists with cabled sections that can be detached and reconfigured while voluptuous, oversized cable knits play with extreme proportions.

With the addition of grungey vintage flannel shirts remodelled to be worn as skirts, and selection of ultra-skinny trousers and low-crotched, punked up pants, it was clear that, like previous ranges, the winter 2005 collection, This is NOT A Love Song, also owed a creative debt to the label's local alternative music scene.

The previous collection, summer 2003/2004's Bored Games, wore its musical affection on its sleeve - the range took its name from the seminal punk band who also hail from NOM*D's hometown of Dunedin.

In winter 2004, the look was more mod-inspired. Think Edie Sedgewick as Bambi viewed through deer hunter's rifle sights. Bold black and white stripes, leggings and oversized hoodies were teamed up with Tyrolean toggle knits and dufflecoats. The silhouette was a continuation of Red [Winter 2003], a collection which combined oversized sweats with skinny pants to create new proportions.

Androgyny is NOM*D other obvious character trait. In her summer 2002/2003 range, designer Margarita Robertson pulled apart vintage cocktail and day dresses and reconstructed them into new shapes. Throwing them over a pair of mannish flat-front pants or shorts, Robertson translated her dresses from feminine flights of fancy into hard-edged pieces with a utilitarian streak that made them easy to wear.

That same juxtaposition of feminine and masculine and the use of classic men's tailoring could be seen a common theme in the Clarion range [winter 2002] which used vintage 1940s mens suiting, breaking it down and then reassembling it to create a singular look.

In every collection, NOM*D maintains its credibility as a label unaffected by trends and whims, instead adopting the cool, considered gaze of the fashion outsider.

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THE SEASON

Danse Macabre Autumn Winter 2011

Danse Macabre takes us back to a medieval world where life is fragile, and always under threat. The Black Death not only ravaged the populations of fourteenth century Europe, it was also a powerful intimation of mortality, a dark angel no amulet or charm could appease. So, how do you stay safe as the world falls down around you?

The idea of protection is central to the Nom*d Winter 2011 collection, with fabrications that play on ideas of chain mail and armour, and proportions that both staunch preparedness and pitiable fragility. These oppositions are played out in contrasting fabrics - leather, rayon and perforated vinyl provide a work-ready toughness that is a signature of Nom*d, while sheer wool gauze and accents of velvet and lace evoke the softer aspects of existence.

War, pestilence, famine. The vicissitudes of life for your average medieval peasant was of a concrete nature that puts twenty-first century angst to shame. It's this need to be prepared for God-know-what that has lead to the creation of Nom*D's most deliverate sihouette yet, an outline which evokes both exaggerated strength and undeniable fragility at the same time. Sculptured tailoring adds a new edge of sophistication to the familiar experiments in a garment construction, that are the calling card of Nom*D, with floor length trench providing a sweeping addition.

Thick layers and plays on proportion combine with detailing such as shoulder spaulders and oversized mouth-pieces in garments that both battle-ready, and beautifully made. Knitwear is for knights this season, signature pieces are worked in oversized stitching consciously reminiscent of chain mail, and questions of mortality so germane to the medieval period are wittily referenced in a new collection of tee-shirt prints which include a skeleton staring beseechingly at an hour glass, and the plague doctor challenging the skeleton to a game of chess.

This is a collection that reminds us that the age of modernity does not have a premium on uncertainty; medieval peasants were trying to avoid infection long before we worried about swine flu. BUt the ever present spectre of Gentleman Death is not enough to put Nom*D off the experiments in form and construction, and the ongoing investigation of oppositions that are the hallmark of the label, and the underlying energy of the Danse Macabre.

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