El Jay Looking Terrific at the NZ Fashion Museum

Those present at the Gus Fisher Gallery were not the young hip ‘up and comings’ one would usually expect. No, the majority of the crowd were mature, sporting the kind of clothes the average twenty–something can only afford to try on. This of course is due to the fact that the fashion label ‘El Jay’ first created by Gus Fisher in the 1950s, is something that the youth of today is well, simply too young for.

The ‘Looking Terrific: the Story of El Jay’ is a museum type showcase, which is the first in a line of ‘pop up’ exhibitions by the New Zealand Fashion Museum. While most women of  50’s New Zealand where looking to the young Queen Elizabeth for fashion inspiration, Fisher looked to European style, travelling to Paris annually, and bringing back ideas for the New Zealand market, thus  becoming the New Zealand licence owner for the house of Dior.

Fishers designs have been described as “his own version of uncluttered European elegance making it available to women here” by the New Zealand Fashion Museum.  There were over 50 vintage garments handpicked for display ranging from the late 40s through to the 80s.

Kate Hannah & Jane Apperley

Gus Fisher (second from left) and Friends

The event itself went down a treat. As mentioned earlier, there where an array of people ranging in age, some of which were decked out in vintage Dior. I got to speak to Harold G. Robinson a boutique owner in the 70s and all round Fashion-mister from the 40s. Robinson experienced the tremendous impact Dior had on Fashion from a London base in the 40’s, exclaiming that in 1947 “all the international papers declared Dior has dropped its hemlines, thus changing the fashion world”.

I also loved the 1968 Cocktail mini dress. With a flat bow,  it was just so charmingly mod, and screamed swinging 60’s with a touch of elegance.

I strongly recommend going to see the upcoming pop-up fashion museums as they are extremely well put together and give a great background to the pillars of current fashion.


Dates for the ‘Looking Terrific – the Story of El Jay’ fashion showcase.
Free Entry!
5th June – 17th July 2010, Auckland at the Gus Fisher Gallery, 74 Shortland Street, Auckland.
6th September – 4th October 2010, Wellington at Kirkcaldie and Stains

Review: Robecca Leyden
Photographer: Winchey Zheng

9 Responses to “El Jay Looking Terrific at the NZ Fashion Museum”
  1. Judy Wong says:

    The exhibition looks great from the website. This has reminded me about the re-opening of Platt Hall – a costume gallery – in Manchester, UK. The visiters were mostly, matured. Is event like this too sophisticated for the young these days? If the dress dummies’ faces were of some famous celebraties, would there be a house full of young girls wanting to look like “them”? Food for thought hey. Or , am I, too matured?

    • nzfashion says:

      Hi Judy,

      There were also many young people who attended the opening and will continue to attend the exhibition while it is running. Many of the mature people who did attend used to work for Gus Fisher, hence why the large turnout from older people. So the young one’s certainly were there!

      Melody 🙂

      • judy says:

        Hey, Melody,

        Is this you? Thank you for the reply. I hope that people aren’t scared to respond to what seems, strong comments. They don’t jump out and bite – might hurt a few egos.
        I am please that the young one are attending too. We can not ignore these great fashion inventers to whom we have much to thank for.
        I can’t wait to come to NZ, not long to wait now.

      • nzfashion says:

        Hi Judy,

        Sure is! I have been meaning to reply to your other comments actually. Been a bit bogged down with our Discovered design comp’ of late. I find your comments interesting and at times quite refreshing. I think that all topics are open to be challenged and you can speak your mind on here, that’s what the comments are for! I hope that things went well at the Polytech. Talk again soon! Melody

    • gm4uls says:

      I apologise for hi-jacking this thread, but the combination of ‘Judy Wong’ and ‘Manchester’ in a comment about fashion was too good an opportunity to miss, so I’m jumping in.

      Judy, would you be the same Judy Wong who used to live in Southport and who designed the suits for ‘Dead or Alive’? If so, I have to say that unfortunately Steph and I lost your address several years ago and have been at a loss how to get in touch. 😦

      Paul Thompson

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