With 16 years experience creating bespoke menswear, Sharon Orquejo says it‚Äôs time the girls had a go.
Sharon Orquejo has three words for women after a quick way to sharpen up their look – ‚Äúblazer, blazer, blazer‚ÄĚ. And if anyone knows the power of a blazer, it‚Äôs 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 ‚ÄĒ a welcome initiative that sees Orquejo well on the way to smartening up the female population too. ‚ÄúI‚Äôd love to see women in New Zealand dress up a bit more,‚ÄĚ she says, ‚ÄúI think every woman should have a good blazer in their wardrobe.‚ÄĚ And it‚Äôs not just blazers on offer ‚ÄĒ W by Working Style currently includes more than 30 women‚Äôs 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. ‚ÄúI remember creating my first suit piece at university and the pattern must have been at least 60 pieces ‚ÄĒ so that‚Äôs a lot of pattern in one garment, and that was just a jacket! It‚Äôs one of those skills you don‚Äôt lose, if anything you just keep learning ‚ÄĒ I‚Äôm still learning to this day on certain alterations, things that I‚Äôve never heard of but that can be done. I find it very interesting, anything that‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúa real gap in the market,‚ÄĚ was a year and a half in the making, and so far has been even more successful than they‚Äôd hoped ‚ÄĒ helped in part by a ready client base in their male customers‚Äô partners. ‚ÄúI 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 they‚Äôve loved it, so that‚Äôs when we were more keen than ever, because we knew there was a market out there.‚ÄĚ
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. ‚ÄúThe options really are limitless,‚ÄĚ says Orquejo, ‚Äúso finally New Zealand women can have what men have been enjoying from Working Style for the last 34 years.‚ÄĚ
Orquejo says the W customer is women looking for something special, both a product and service that ‚Äúreally gets them‚ÄĚ, It‚Äôs not just about getting a perfectly made suit or separates ‚ÄĒ although that is always the outcome ‚ÄĒ the experience is equally as important. ‚ÄúWe 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 I‚Äôve never seen anyone offer it to women. And it is so nice for us women to switch off for a bit, so it‚Äôs all about you for a minute. A lot of women are so busy, they just don‚Äôt stop – when I bring them in here, I‚Äôm telling them, ‚ÄúThis is your time…‚ÄĚ
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 they‚Äôre 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 Style‚Äôs 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 brand‚Äôs very first New Zealand shirtmaker in charge of making a range for W by Working Style that includes a covetable boyfriend-style shirt.
‚ÄúTt‚Äôs been great to reconnect with these wonderful people and build a relationship while highlighting their incredible craftsmanship,‚ÄĚ says Orquejo. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs nice to have options, and the New Zealand style is quite different from the other offerings, which are typically European in influence ‚ÄĒa bit more nippy through the waist and shoulder, more tailored.‚ÄĚ
‚Äú?‚Äôm working around our women‚Äôs 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.‚ÄĚ
The ‚ÄėNew Zealand‚Äô 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 there‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúglamorous yet sophisticated, for any special occasions from weddings to cocktail parties.‚ÄĚ
W By Working Style includes more than 30 women‚Äôs suiting options that can be made to order in an array of fabrications and colourways.