With 16 years experience creating bespoke menswear, Sharon Orquejo says itâs time the girls had a go.
Sharon Orquejo has three words for women after a quick way to sharpen up their look – âblazer, blazer, blazerâ. And if anyone knows the power of a blazer, itâs Orquejo, who for the last 16 years has helped hundreds of people into the perfect tailored jacket in her role at New Zealand suiting institution Working Style.
The heritage brand, which has been in business almost 35 years, has predominantly focused its offering on menswear, but in late 2020 expanded into made-to-order womenswear â a welcome initiative that sees Orquejo well on the way to smartening up the female population too. âIâd love to see women in New Zealand dress up a bit more,â she says, âI think every woman should have a good blazer in their wardrobe.â And itâs not just blazers on offer â W by Working Style currently includes more than 30 womenâs styles, including suits, jackets, pants and shirts that can be made to order in an infinite array of fabrications and colourways. Orquejo admits that even in the early days as a fashion and textile design student at AUT, she was strongly drawn to the tailoring. âI remember creating my first suit piece at university and the pattern must have been at least 60 pieces â so thatâs a lot of pattern in one garment, and that was just a jacket! Itâs one of those skills you donât lose, if anything you just keep learning â Iâm still learning to this day on certain alterations, things that Iâve never heard of but that can be done. I find it very interesting, anything thatâs a bit different is a challenge for me, and I love a bit of a challenge.
The W range, which was instigated, driven and designed by Orquejo after she noticed âa real gap in the market,â was a year and a half in the making, and so far has been even more successful than theyâd hoped â helped in part by a ready client base in their male customersâ partners. âI had been creating this for almost 18 months, but during that time I had organically been getting clients, the partners of those coming in to look at menswear, and theyâve loved it, so thatâs when we were more keen than ever, because we knew there was a market out there.â
With her extensive experience and intuitive understanding of the Working Style brand Orquejo had a strong vision for what was needed to create a collection that referenced its roots, but also ticked all the boxes when it came to great womenswear.
The perfect jacket is the base for the collection, with polished cotton mills, velvet, silk and tweed just a few of the fabrications on offer. âThe options really are limitless,â says Orquejo, âso finally New Zealand women can have what men have been enjoying from Working Style for the last 34 years.â
Orquejo says the W customer is women looking for something special, both a product and service that âreally gets themâ, Itâs not just about getting a perfectly made suit or separates â although that is always the outcome â the experience is equally as important. âWe really enjoy creating a personal, one on one experience. Just like with the men, we want to share that same experience, because I love that experience, and Iâve never seen anyone offer it to women. And it is so nice for us women to switch off for a bit, so itâs all about you for a minute. A lot of women are so busy, they just donât stop – when I bring them in here, Iâm telling them, âThis is your time…â
The process starts with an initial in-store consultation and fitting, where the W consultant gets to know the client, their lifestyle and wardrobe requirements (over a gin and tonic or champagne if theyâre in the mood), while looking through samples, taking measurements and talking fit, fabric and function.
Measurements for the more tailored pieces are then sent off to Working Styleâs Portuguese atelier of choice, Davion, while the more relaxed-fit suits and shirts, designed specifically with Kiwi style in mind, are skillfully sewn by top local tailors. Ina maximum time frame of six weeks, the customer then returns for a final fitting and styling session.
While Europe is renowned as the epicentre of exceptional garment and fabric production, Working Style has also engaged top local makers in the creation of the collection, with a locally made suit with a softer, looser silhouette, and the brandâs very first New Zealand shirtmaker in charge of making a range for W by Working Style that includes a covetable boyfriend-style shirt.
âTtâs been great to reconnect with these wonderful people and build a relationship while highlighting their incredible craftsmanship,â says Orquejo. âItâs nice to have options, and the New Zealand style is quite different from the other offerings, which are typically European in influence âa bit more nippy through the waist and shoulder, more tailored.â
â?âm working around our womenâs lifestyles and I wanted to be able to produce something that could transition from work to dinner or be worn with a pair of jeans or shorts… Pieces we could get more wear out of as opposed to just the one function.â
The âNew Zealandâ suit is also the only W style available to purchase off the rack – for now everything else is made to order.
Orquejo says pieces cut in their luxurious linens have been among the most popular to date, but thereâs been plenty of surprise standouts, from soft pink and cherry red suits to one of her own personal favourites, a white satin pairing that is âglamorous yet sophisticated, for any special occasions from weddings to cocktail parties.â
W By Working Style includes more than 30 womenâs suiting options that can be made to order in an array of fabrications and colourways.