Designer Spotlight: Emma Wallace

Emma SS10 - Brett StanleyThree years after designer Emma Wallace launched her own label “Emma”, she swung open the doors to her first retail outlet and studio workspace in Newtown, Wellington – and made a childhood dream come true.

From a young age, Emma wanted to be a designer. Influenced by her two grandmothers’ dressmaking skills and elaborate wardrobes, her passion blossomed.

After graduating from Wellington Polytechnic School of Design, Emma took some time out to start a family before she became the production manager for designer Zana Feuchs. These years were extremely beneficial for Emma; they gave her knowledge of the in’s and out’s of operating a business, invaluable organisational skills, and the time to raise a family.

Once her children had grown, Emma dove head first into creating her own label. She strongly recommends that up and coming designers work with veteran designers, and learn how to balance the creative aspect of designing with operating a successful business.

When asked about the challenge of putting out a fresh look season after season, Emma simply smiles and states that this is the “fun part”.

Emma SS10 - Brett StanleyShe relishes change and creativity – two personality characteristics that are, according to her, common to designers. A very hands-on and in-control attitude is also useful, but so is learning how to let go and let others help, in order to grow your business.

As the designer, production manager, and distributor for her business, she creates a sample and then sends it to local Wellington factories to be produced. They return the final pieces for her to distribute to her retail outlets. Her clothing can be found in Wellington, Blenheim and Christchurch.

For Emma, perseverance is the key to success as a designer. Making a living out of her dream was not always easy. Finding retail stores that match a designer’s style and demographics can be a hurdle. Once this hurdle has been overcome, designers must ensure that they maintain good a relationship with their outlets.

But the challenges are well worth the satisfaction she receives from seeing strangers wearing her clothes and one of her greatest milestones was participating in last year’s Air New Zealand Fashion Week.

Emma SS10 - Brett StanleyEmma’s designs are inspired by the women’s fashion movement of the 1940’s to 1960’s, when clothing went from being ultra-feminine and restrictive, to being functional and comfortable. Whimsical feminine touches riddle her ready-to-wear designs. One of her classic pieces from last year’s spring/summer line is made of gathered soft denim, with piped, utilitarian pockets. Her Spring/Summer 09 collection reveals bold two-coloured cotton dresses, a new line of screen-printed designs, and glittery fairy skirts.

To view her latest SS10 collection, and chat with the friendly designer, pop by her new studio workspace – nicknamed the “Nana Lounge” in reverence to all the great and inspirational grandmothers of the world – at 476 Adelaide Rd, Berhampore, Wellington.

For stockist infrmation visit –
Images of Emma’s latest summer collection ‘Stitchbirds’ are here

Interview by: Colleen Douglas
Photography: Brett Stanley


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