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Kate Sylvester to close NZ fashion label after 31 years


Models walk the runway during the Kate Sylvester show during New Zealand Fashion Week 2019 at Auckland Town Hall. Getty Images
Models walk the runway during the Kate Sylvester show during New Zealand Fashion Week 2019 at Auckland Town Hall. Getty Images
Kiwi fashion designer Kate Sylvester has announced she is to close her eponymous fashion label after 31 years in business. 

The respected Auckland-based fashion designer and her co-founder, co-director husband Wayne Conway, said in a statement the brand will wind up operations next year.

The label’s final collection will be the Summer 24 collection with the business operating as usual until close in mid-2025.

In an announcement shared online, the pair said they were incredibly proud of what they had achieved over the years.

“Since the day we opened the doors on that first store in Kitchener Street we have worked incredibly hard for three decades. And now we need to move on to a new chapter in our lives. Fashion is all about change, something we’ve never feared and always embraced. We want to go out the way we came into this business, still loving what we do and being truly happy to do it.”

While no reason was shared for the decision, the brand celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, and the pair now say they have “decided that it is time to bow out.”

Designs from Kate Sylvester’s show at New Zealand Fashion Week in August 2023, that marked the brand’s 30 year anniversary. Getty Images

The pair thanked Kate Sylvester’s loyal customers and community, many of whom have been shopping with the label for decades, as well as the team behind the scenes and store staff.

“Thank you to our customers for embracing our vision and making us the iconic NZ brand we have become,” the statement said. “It has been our honour and privilege to create clothes worn and loved by multiple generations of women both everyday and for the most important moments in their lives.”


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A post shared by Kate Sylvester (@kate_sylvester)

Sylvester and Conway created their label, originally called Sister, in 1993 soon after the couple returned from a stint living in Paris. They started out with what they described as “literally nothing more than wild faith in each other and a dream,” developing a reputation for simple casual separates, knitwear and screen-printed t-shirts.

In 1998, the label changed its name from Sister to Kate Sylvester due to a copyright challenge from a multinational fashion label and began including more tailored, sophisticated designs. The brand established a popular retail presence in Auckland’s High Street, a hub for New Zealand’s burgeoning fashion industry, as well as opening long-standing retail stores in Newmarket, Ponsonby the CBD’s Britomart precinct, as well as Wellington and Christchurch.

A look from Kate Sylvester’s New Zealand Fashion Week show in 2019.

Helping extend the brand’s popularity beyond Auckland and even New Zealand, were seasonal fashion shows, extending each collection’s inspiration to the runway. Collections had varied starting points but many were connected to elements of art, books, music or film.

“We have created epoch-defining, memorable shows, campaigns and collections on both sides of the Tasman,” the statement acknowledged.

“Along the way we have brought others with us, mentoring and working beside some incredibly talented people, many of whom have gone on to become big names in the industry themselves.

Offering their support to a new generation of New Zealand designers, Sylvester and Conway finished the announcement by saying, “it’s your time to shine now.”


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