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Beyond the Bale : February March 2009
February – March 2009 Beyond the Bale creating deMand cultural Kiwi crosses the tasman for fashion Inspiration comes easily for designer Margi Milich. With support from a close family and creative team, the attributes of Merino wool play a leading role in her designs By Rebecca Thyer 30-year-old age bracket, her inspiration came from a fashion elder and one close to her heart – her mother Sonia ‘Sonny’ Milich. Margi’s new label – Sonny in Love – has just been a launched in australia and new Zealand, complementing the established Sabatini labels created by the Milich family’s company Sonny elegant Knitwear Ltd. Margi says the Sonny in Love label takes a new direction, but still reflects the company’s history. Her mother Sonia and father Zarko started Sonny Knitwear in new Zealand more than 50 years ago, and throughout this period, have relied on the use of fine quality yarns like australian Merino. today the company is run by Sydney-based Margi and her brother tony, who is based in new Zealand. in a similar manner to the way their parents worked, Margi says she and tony balance each other. “tony and i complement each other well, not just as siblings, but also in business.” Her parents’ differing skills also helped make the business a success, says Margi, who continues to be inspired by her mother’s style and wisdom and her father’s business creativity. a gap in the market for youth-oriented knitwear led to the new Sonny in Love range, and like all Sabatini collections – from Sabatini to its elite international brand Sabatini White – it uses australian Merino and other quality fibres such as silk to create particular yarns. it is the use of such craftsmanship that has helped inspire the collections and given the brands an edge. Margi says that although there is no single element behind a brand’s success, quality ingredients such as extrafine australian Merino are an important part of the recipe. “Merino has been part of our design philosophy from the beginning. We love to use it because it is an amazing quality product. it is eco-friendly and lasts forever, making it an exciting fabric to work with.” Margi believes Merino yarn’s drape and fall can help inspire designs, although with a creative roundtable, inspiration is never far away. For example, Sabatini White’s latest collection for winter 2009 is called empress of desire. “the collection is all about opulence and glamour with a punk rock twist,” she says. in colours that include rust and charcoal, the garments have an ‘edge’ to them, she says. “We used zips and rivets against sumptuous fabrics like the über-sophisticated wools and cashmeres. it is impossible to assign a label, or box it in. it’s our most adaptable and versatile collection.” in contrast, the palette for the Sabatini Winter 2009 collection includes various shades of grey and paprika, with highlights of wheat, teal and black. “it is a return to a tailored look with new swing jackets, knitted blazers and the most intricate knitted dresses,” Margi says. Sabatini’s use of Merino and other fibres to create its own yarns has also led to it being compared to italian brand Missoni, which many say changed the face of knitwear with its casual, colourful mix of lthough new Zealand designer Margi Milich’s new youth-oriented collection is aimed at the 18 to creations when it was launched in the 1940s. this comparison – made by a buyer from exclusive international retailer H. Lorenzo at Sabatini’s Paris launch four years ago – also recognises the importance of europe to the family who, while of croatian descent, lived in italy for 15 years before moving to new Zealand and opening Sonny Knitwear in the 1950s. this european connection has influenced both the older and the younger Milichs. “Mum and dad spoke italian, cooked italian and my mother dressed italian, so we were immersed in all things italian.” Margi’s time as a budding young pianist at the conservatory of Montreux, in Switzerland, also deepened her love for all things european. “While in Montreux, my appreciation for the european lifestyle – the clothing, style, language, food and colourful life – increased and it has stayed with me to this day.” it was this cultural background that led tony and Margi to give their knitwear brand an italian name – Sabatini – when it began about 20 years ago. “We always felt, because of our background, very passionate about everything we do. We are a close family with the same spirit. i constantly receive inspiration from my parents.” and seeing the success that all their hard work had achieved makes Margi that much more determined to succeed. Sabatini was launched in australia at a time when there was no middle price mark for knitwear, she recalls. “it was all either very expensive or very cheap.” While working in Sydney directing shows for international designers, including Valentino and armani, Margi was unable to find a black, fine-knit Merino skivvy one day, so with her brother’s insistence, decided to bring her family’s brand to australia. “it was as simple as that. i put together some stuff that i would wear and, like my parents did when they moved to new Zealand, i took my wares to australian retailers,” she says. Sabatini is now part of retailer david Jones’ family of brands. it is also stocked at 150 boutiques throughout australia, while the limited Sabatini White brand is sold at high-end international retailers, such as Searle, Barneys and Harvey nichols in Hong Kong. “i was walking on air after we got our first orders from overseas,” Margi says. Margi foresees Merino playing a continuing role in her designs. “i see it going finer and softer, with even more drape and even more properties.” it will also be important in new markets, including the United arab emirates and Korea, which is where current work with aWi is helping. With austrade and aWi, Sabatini participated in a catwalk show as part of an australia day event in Korea. it was the first time the label was on display at such a big showcase event. “aWi is forecasting the Korean market as being quite significant. Our relationship has given us the opportunity to enter a new and emerging market, and 21 “ Merino has been part of our design philosophy from the beginning. We love to use it because it is an amazing quality product. it is eco-friendly and lasts forever, making it an exciting fabric to work with.” –margi milich SOnny in LOVe Sonny in Love was launched to fill a gap in the market for middle-priced knits. the label is aimed at 18 to 30-year-olds and is a brand extension of the Sonny elegant Knitwear company that Margi Milich’s parents started in the 1950s. “it’s a new, quirky and creative collection. More youthful, contemporary and fun; playful and fresh … like a new-found love unexplored. it is bright and colourful, a contrast to Sabatini and Sabatini White,” Margi says. the collection uses the finest Merino and special organic yarns from across the globe. the collection features a heart-shaped label, and Margi says that like all new collections, it was made with love and, best of all, her mother adores it. one which we see a great future with.” Sabatini’s relationship with aWi is based on a long history dating back to Woolmark’s inception in 1967. it is also one that presents joint marketing and promotional opportunities. More information: www.sabatini.co.nz ?
Dec 08 - Jan 09
April May 2009