In the game of musical chairs that is the department store wars, you can be sure of one thing: no sooner does one fire a shot across the bow than the other swiftly responds.
David Jones has signed renowned New Zealand label Kate Sylvester, adding to its war chest of local brands, as its main rival, Myer, racks up new and exclusive international brands.
Kate Sylvester, which launched in 1993, and Sylvester, the secondary line, will be in David Jones’ Sydney, Melbourne and Wellington stores, as well as online, from this month.
The designer said the move from Myer to David Jones reflected the “consolidation of our position in Australia”.
“We’ve built a really strong, loyal clientele of women who appreciate the feminine difference we celebrate with our clothes,” she said.
And in the climate of #metoo and #TimesUp, when fashion is so intrinsically linked to the feminist and political discourse, Sylvester said her brand offered a lot for the modern woman.
“I feel like there’s been a real shift in consciousness that you can celebrate your femininity and be powerful. That’s an interesting thing about the way women perceive ourselves now,” Sylvester said. “We don’t have to match the blokes, we find our own way in life. We find strength in our feminity that I find a really positive thing now.”
Among Sylvester’s most loyal clients is New Zealand’s most powerful woman, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. But the label is made for a wide range of women, including those committed to sustainable fashion.
“Every woman who buys Kate Sylvester knows she will wear and love that dress for years. We don’t see ourselves being driven by fashion, it’s about timelessness,” Sylvester said.
The company’s commitment to responsible and local production – the majority is still manufactured in New Zealand – earned it recognition from the country’s top sustainability body. Sylvester herself is also an ambassador for the Child Labor Free initiative.
She said fashion was undergoing huge change, with the “mash-up” of styles set to define 2018.
“I’m a huge suit wearer,” she said. “I love the menswear references we are seeing around at the moment. It feels pretty free-spirited at the moment.”
David Jones has signed about 30 new brands in the past year, including Australian fashion labels Aje and By Johnny. On Saturday, Myer announced it had secured eight new international labels, including Marni and Victoria, Victoria Beckham.