Having grown up living above her mother's fashion design business, Emilia Wickstead is no stranger to the fashion industry and inevitably has found herself following in her mother's footsteps. Wickstead was born in Auckland, and lived there until she was 14 before moving with her mother to Milan, a strict contrast to the fashion she had been surrounded by.
“Milan was all about women dressing for men and it was all about being feminine. As opposed to Auckland where the girls would wear board shorts over or bikinis. It went from a very masculine way of dressing to all of a sudden everything was super feminine,” said Wickstead.
Leaving her Milan home at 18 to pursue a university career in fine arts, Wickstead soon found her passion for design and fell in love with the fashion industry. A lot can be attributed to her time growing up in such a fashion influenced city, and Milan still holds great value for Wickstead as she progresses in her fashion career.
“At that time it was the centre of fashion and it was having a moment. And you know, I was very young and impressionable teenager where you absorb all of that.”
At 26, Wickstead moved to London to study fashion design and marketing at the world-renowned Central Saint Martins, home to legendary names including Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Stella McCartney.
London is now home to Wickstead’s made-to-measure business, which she launched in 2008.
“Basically it was – to be perfectly honest – all about timing. And it was all about the fact that we had ‘x’ amount of money in the pot and so that meant making one garment at a time,” said Wickstead.
Timing, and powerful friendships meant Wickstead soon began dressing some of the most influential people in the UK, most notably the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.
Before the Duchess however, came Britain’s First Lady, Samantha Cameron. Having befriended Lohralee Strutz, David Cameron’s sister in law, Wickstead designs soon started showing up on Samantha Cameron on multiple occasions.
"It was on the cover of about 15 newspapers and in every magazine,” said Wickstead.
While Wickstead is hesitant to talk about her relationship with Middleton, she has expressed what an honor and privilege it is to have such an influential woman want to wear her designs. Wickstead is not short on high profile customers however, with the likes of Kate Bosworth, Diane Kruger, Gwyneth Paltrow and Brie Larson all on her list.
"The minute that a celebrity wears your clothing, that gives you international exposure and the best advertising you can get."
Wickstead is a firm believer that every woman, regardless of celebrity status, should be able to put on a beautiful product that makes them feel fabulous.
“I believe you can save up for a key piece in your wardrobe. You can wear a great pair of jeans or cigarette trousers, or a great T-shirt. I haven't always been dressing in designer clothes. But if you have an eye for it – it's a look that is very groomed, and it's flawless.”
Wickstead’s most famous customer, Kate Middleton, who has worn multiple pieces by the designer and is known to wear outfits multiple times, shares the idea of a key piece.
She describes her brand as the ‘most modern woman in her circle’. A woman who walks into the room best dressed and most noticed. Confident, smart and sassy are key attributes of her customers that can age from 22 right through to 100.
Her Kiwi roots meant she was a natural choice for the judging panel at the latest iD Dunedin Fashion Week, in which she also showcased a range of her creations.
“Emilia Wickstead’s chic and elegant designs have created an international following and we’re delighted to have her back in her home country showing at iD. From her very latest pieces from London Fashion Week, to couture garments worn on the world’s red carpets, iD audiences will enjoy a spectacular fashion experience,” said Cherry Lucas, committee chair, iD Fashion Week.
While Wickstead lives in London, she still considers New Zealand to be her home, and tries to visit at least once a year depending on business. She is currently living across the road from her store with her husband.
“New Zealand is the most grounding place I know and is a place where I have felt most nurtured and confident to be whomever I wanted to be. I 100 per cent mark growing up in New Zealand as being the time when I experimented with trends, fashion tastes, second-hand clothing, very short hair cuts… the list goes on,” said Wickstead.