Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Inside Sabatini

Frockwriter had always wanted to visit the head office of New Zealand knitwear brand Sabatini, which showed in a group show during New Zealand Fashion Week a fortnight ago. On this NZ trip we did finally made it out to the Mt Roskill factory, about 20 minutes outside of Auckland’s CBD. Founded 57 years ago by Croatian refugees Zarko and Sonja Milich as Sonny Elegant Knitwear Ltd, this third generation family-run knitwear business is unique in Australasia. From 1967, it was also one of the original partner’s of the International Wool Secretariat’s Woolmark program (and yes, they use Australian wool - most of New Zealand's clip goes into high quality carpets and rugs). Operated today by Zarko's and Sonja’s son and daughter Tony Milich and Margie Evans-Milich and granddaughters Anja Milich and Danielle Evans-Milich, Sabatini has been likened to Italy’s Missoni clan. It’s fascinating to see the beautiful jacquards being woven on equipment that includes some quite spectacular postwar machinery. The company’s stable of brands includes Sabatini and the highend Sabatini White, which is sold around the world. 

Click here to see frockwriter’s Posterous photogallery of images from the mini Sabatini White NZFW show plus those Kent and I took in and around the factory - including a shot of the first garment ever manufactured by the company in 1953, pictured above, which is framed in Tony's office. 

I would highly recommend any students interested in a rare insight into on-shore knitwear manufacturing to call requesting a go-see.

And I would also love to see this company do some one-off creative collaborations. Lots of fashion companies do them. Both parties benefit. And Areez Katki springs to mind here. The revelation of New Zealand Fashion Week 2009, this young, undercapitalised Auckland-based designer hand knits every last one of his garments. After the Huffer show on the closing night of New Zealand Fashion Week, he told me that he can’t supply any more than two boutiques. It would be interesting to see what just he and this great heritage brand might be able to cook up.


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