Home' The Wellingtonian : January 17th 2013 Contents 12 THE WELLINGTONIAN, JANUARY 17, 2013
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Division of rela onship
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Carving a fashionable path
talks to fashion
hunting, wanting to
become a journalist and
seeing Nina Simone in
Robyn Mathieson: ''I was making Madonna-style clothes, conical bras, that sort of thing. It was the mid-80s after all.''
Where did you grow up?
In Te Anau. It was great in so
many ways. My father was a bit of
a bushman, so we spent a lot of
time tramping, boating, kayaking,
canoeing and hunting. It's a beau-
tiful place and I developed a love
of swimming there. I spent a lot of
time in the lake. It was freezing
and it would take me an hour to
get in, but once I was in, I could
swim all day.
Your mother was into dye-
ing, sewing and spinning wool.
Is that where your interest in
clothes comes from?
Partly. My mother is exception-
ally well-dressed. She's always
been interested in fashion and
style. But I had grandmothers
who were into creating style. My
mother's mother knitted suits. My
father's mother was not as skilful,
but she had an eye for bright,
colourful material. She had a
chest of material and I used to
fossick round for all these lurid
Did you always want to go
No. I went to Otago and did an
arts degree. I wanted to be a
journalist, because I was good at
English and had this romantic
idea I could be a writer. I have a
lot of the qualities you need to be
journalist, but every time I tried
to get into it, I got stuck.
Wasn't your first job in
Advertising sales. I worked for
the Otago Daily Times in clas-
sifieds. That led to a job at Radio
4XO. When I went for that job, I
was told there would be a chance
to write for radio. When I started,
I realised I'd been tricked. It was
advertising sales only.
So you decided to go into
Yes. I'd made some clothes and
was making jewellery on the side.
I'd always had an entrepreneurial
streak. I left 4XO and applied for
fashion school in Wellington.
Why did you complete only
one year of fashion school?
I'd used up my student allow-
ance when I got to the second
year. But I was working too -- I
had a stall at the old market in
Wakefield St -- so I decided to con-
centrated on that fulltime. I went
on to have a stall at the Egmont
St market, then I opened Par-
ameter in Cuba St. I was making
Madonna-style clothes, conical
bras, that sort of thing. It was the
mid-80s after all.
You did your OE in London.
What was that like?
I took a suitcase of my weird
and wonderful creations to
London and opened a stall at
Camden Markets. It was a very
conservative time. Margaret That-
cher was in power, the economy
was tough and most people
weren't that adventurous. But I
worked for a quantity surveyor as
a typist. They were wonderful. I
had a great time and did all the
those wonderful things you do in
London -- squatting with other
expat Kiwis, going out to lots of
What was the most memor-
able gig you attended?
I saw Nina Simone at the Royal
Albert Hall. It was incredible.
From where I was sitting she was
the size of a postage stamp, yet
she filled the place with her
Why return to New Zealand?
I'd had enough. It was time to
grow up and settle down. I came
back and opened two stores in
Lambton Quay. I had two partner-
ships... they didn't really work
out, so I opened River.
You changed your store
name to your name. Why?
There was a lot of collaboration
with Australian Fashion Week at
the time and one of their guys was
over here. He said to me: If you
want to get ahead in the business
and build your brand, you need to
give your store the same name as
your label.'' He was right, of
Have you been to many
Not really. I've done Melbourne
Fashion Week and been to Auck-
land Fashion Week to watch. I
prefer to show locally, here in
Wellington -- some group shows,
some individuals shows. I decided
early on it was too expensive to do
that sort of thing; also you have to
please the wholesalers.
How do you get your name
out there then?
A lot of it is done over the net,
through email. I have a big
database and keep building on
that. But the strongest thing is
word of mouth.
What can we look forward to
A lot of knitwear and colours
like green, turquoise and burnt
orange. We design them here and
have the items made in Auckland.
Several designers have left
Wellington. Why have you
I have kids here. Their father is
here and his family is very
involved with the children. And I
really enjoy living here. I love the
weather, except when it's windy. I
live in Evans Bay and love the
eastern suburbs, having the bea-
ches so close by.
What is Wellington's best
Kilbirnie Fish and Chips in
Coutts St. I always recommend
them to people who visit Welling-
ton. It's a cash-only, family-run
business. I've never had better.
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