Fashion designer Elisabeth Findlay is one-half of Zambesi, often called New Zealand’s “first family of fashion”. Launched in 1979 with husband Neville, and quickly breaking into international markets, the brand has enjoyed critical acclaim throughout its lifetime, celebrated for its exquisite, innovative garments and an edgy, dark, constantly evolving intelligence.
A stalwart throughout its customers’ lives, Zambesi has become so cemented as quintessentially New Zealand that it has designed Air New Zealand’s frontline staff uniforms and been the subject of a significant Auckland War Memorial Museum exhibition. Both Liz and Neville were made Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2008, for their services to business and fashion.
Findlay is renowned for her innovative designs and her attention to structure and detail, as well as for a deep love of fabric that gives her both inspiration and the raw materials of her creation. Vogue once described Zambesi as “exquisitely idiosyncratic”, and indeed the use of interesting fabrics is one of Zambesi’s signatures. But Findlay’s clothing is more than just fashion, and more than a powerful brand; it holds emotional resonance, what Findlay describes as “a state of mind or an attitude”. It avoids mainstream trends and instead becomes a treasured part of its customers’ lives.
Findlay has been involved with WOW® as a judge several times before, and enjoys the association. “WOW® has influenced and embraced many creative disciplines, making a considerable contribution to the cultural fabric of New Zealand,” she says. “The fashion industry needs the stimulus of thought provoking art to ensure that it moves forward and remains inspirational.”