Anjali Stewart and Rachel Easting are best friends and co-designers of New Zealand based label Twenty-seven Names, who are quickly becoming known for their quirky mix of sweet and dark and pop culture references from the past. They showed their fantastic latest collection, dubbed 'The Fearsome Five', at NZ Fashion Week last week. Stewart sat down with Zoe Walker of the blog So Much To Tell You to talk about the new collection, friendship and the appeal of looking back.
Zoe: How are you feeling now that the show is done?
Anjali: Freaked out. It's so weird when it's all over, it happens so fast - you're a bit like. 'did we really just do that?'
Tell me about the collection - what were you guys talking about and inspired by when designing it?
It's called The Fearsome Five - Rachel and I were in a band of girls at primary school dubbed that. It was 1996 and we were just about to go to high school, so we were looking at the pop culture of that time - books, movies, Full House - all those things that shaped our youth. And kind of the general feeling of dressing like a fruit and loving it!
What are some of your highlights or favourite pieces from the range?
I really like the silk tuck dresses - heaps of work has gone into them and I think they'll be really nice to wear next winter. Also the bomber jackets are awesome!
There were several high school in the 90s references, with different cliques or gangs - what group did you hang out with when you were at high school?
When we were at high school we hung out in the art room - with our friend Maya, who has been helping us for the last few months on the show. We didn't really do the whole common room thing - the smell of lasagna toppers and two-minute noddles was too intense! Rachel was a prefect at high school and got Promixme Accecit to the Dux - she was quite the high achiever. I on the other hand worked twice as many hours to get by, so we were really quite, not nerdy, but focused at high school I guess.
How would you describe the Twenty-seven Names 'gang' - the girls who wear your clothes well.
We're not great at this - but I think people who like and wear our stuff well, have kind of a kooky aesthetic, like to mix vintage with new stuff, and don't take themselves too seriously.
Who is your ultimate TSN 'girl', both 'real' or fictional?
Ultimate would be Seinfeld's Elaine Benes in her heyday, but today, it's just seeing people we don't know wearing our stuff around! The other day in Wellington, Rachel was walking down the street and heard a girl say to her boyfriend, "that girl is wearing Twenty-seven names" - it's awesome, and hilarious, when people are that into it!
A lot of your collections have this sense of nostalgia to them - something that so many twenty-something girls our age seem to love. Why do you think there is that fascination with looking back to our youth?
I honestly think it's because that is when we dressed the best! I think everyone kind of has a collective memory of what it was like to first be interested in fashion and it's fun to look back and reference your glory days. Also I think looking to the future, can be a daunting task. I mean what did Jerry say about it - "I think eventually fashion won’t even exist. I think someday we’ll all wear the same thing. Because anytime I see a movie or a TV show where there are people from the future or another planet, they’re all wearing the same outfit. Somehow they all decided, “All right, that’s enough. From now on, this is going to be our outfit. One-piece silver jump suit, with a V-stripe on the chest, and boots. If we’re going to start visiting other planets, we better look like a team."
You have known each other since you were 10 - do you think that shared adolescence contributes to the label's nostalgic values?
Totally from about 12 all we did in our spare time was window shopped or op-shopped. There are outfits or garments we still pay each other out for - namely Rachel's cream cord flares and my mum's spotty shirt that my brother and I used to share to wear to our discos! We also like things which have the vintage feel to them - so I think that also contributes to the nostalgia.
How did you and Rachel become friends?
Black Panther. It was the tag game at our school; we were formally introduced in Standard 3, and people though we would make a good pair because Rachel was a fast runner and I was a master hider. The rest is history.
You had models wearing friendship bracelets in the show - do you and Rachel have anything like that?
Rachel and I loved friendship bracelets and I still have the blue and yellow one she made me. In our first collection we did a best friends print - with the gold half heart pendant - I still wear the charm everyday that we based it on!