Only three collections old, ‘Eugenie’ designed by Elizabeth Wilson always ensures her garments are pieces she’d like to wear herself
Fashion design isn’t rocket science, but Eugenie creative director Elizabeth Wilson’s latest collection is a nod in that direction. She took her reference from the world’s largest machine, the Large Hadron Collider, near Geneva in Switzerland. “The collection is shaped around the patterns that the particles make when they do a collision test,” Wilson, 32, explains pointing to a dress with a swirling print on blue silk satin with a ribbed neckband. Her brand is only three collections old – the first one, a concept range, wasn’t even for sale – and her designs, all made in New Zealand, just keep getting more exciting. Wilson has chosen not to design for seasons. She can do this because she’s not wholesaling, although that may change in the future. For now though, she has a boutique in Ponsonby, Auckland, that she and her partner Simon Oosterdijk designed together, and her website. Wilson says she designed her concept range because “I wanted to put together a range that was completely unburdened by commercial restraint, so I did this first one that was inspired by building sites”.
This collection won her Fashion Quarterly’s Young Designer of the Year award in 2011. The $10,000 cash prize helped her get her brand off the ground. The second was titled Collection One and was the range she opened her Eugenie store with last year. It was inspired by the work of photographer Lars Tunbjork. Before fashion design, Wilson studied at Otago University to be a product and graphic designer, then went to work in advertising at Y&R. “After a year and half of solid hard graft, I realised my interest in fashion was much stronger.” So she decided to embark on a graduate diploma in fashion. From there she went on to become Karen Walker’s design assistant – a position she won through a competition. (Actually, she says, she came second, but then another position opened up and she worked there for about a year.) After she left Karen Walker she went back to graphic design working at the Mi Piaci and Overland head office. While there she won the FQ/Tresemme competition, which meant she could step away from the job and start planning Eugenie. The name is her grandmother’s and is also her middle name.
She says the way she designs each collection is constantly changing and developing because the brand is so new, but a major part of the process is ensuring the garments are what she’d like to wear herself. “I’m so new to this, so my process does change. With the first collection it took me six months to do my first jacket. You go through this rigmarole – what am I about? Do I like this? Do I like that? The more I work the more I trust my instincts.” It must help that she has face-to-face contact with the women she designs for. As we chat, Wilson darts out of the workroom backing onto her store and into the shop to help customers.
Words: Rosie Kelway
Photography: Heather Liddell