Described as an ‘irreverent classicist’, Kate Sylvester balances her love of tailoring and historical reference with a provocative wit and a resolutely modern vision.
Known for her immaculate tailoring and strongly conceptual collections, Auckland designer Kate Sylvester is celebrated for her ironic, subtly subversive take on modern femininity. Her work plays off disparate references, stitching sportswear to couture, femininity to masculinity, pop culture to history, high art to punk rock.
The collections are sophisticated and wearable, built around timeless pieces that transcend the seasons and the latest trends. Kate describes her customer as a woman ‘smart enough to know that it’s far more provocative and stylish to be subtly sexy and have a sense of humour about dressing up’.
The contrasts and incongruities explored in the collections are also evident in the design of her flagship store at Britomart. Raw concrete pillars and exposed industrial services are the foil for a cool, chic colour scheme, with smooth blond wood fittings and delicate perforated ironwork ceiling panels.
Growing a fashion empire
The Britomart boutique carries full collections of both Kate Sylvester and ‘naughty little sister’ label Sylvester, as well as Kate Sylvester eyewear, shoes and a selection of other handpicked accessories.
Following a childhood steeped in dress-ups, Kate’s first commercial venture designing and selling clothes was at the age of 14. In 1993 she launched her eponymous label with Wayne Conway, her partner in life, creativity and business.
Today there are Kate Sylvester stores in New Zealand and Australia and her designs are sold at high fashion boutiques in Australasia, France and the US. The brand has an established sustainability policy, including a commitment to onshore production and an expanding stable of ethical and organic fabric options. Kate Sylvester is a past winner of a National Sustainable Business Network Award.