This Saturday, Emma Jing Cornall is staging a wedding – but unless there are impromptu nuptials, no one will actually be getting married.
The Auckland-based designer behind independent fashion label Emma Jing is moving to the UK in a couple of weeks – but before she does, she’s holding one last fashion show with her long-time collaborator and fellow designer Taylor Groves.
It’s taking place at Groves’ Grey Lynn home, which has a huge rear garden, and will play out like a backyard wedding – complete with 11 brides in looks created by Cornall, and two grooms wearing designs by Groves.
When Broadsheet visits the pair’s Karangahape studio and boutique, The Keep (shared with designers Lela Jacobs, Shannen Young and Wilbur Hsu), for a fitting preview, the floor is covered in overlapping squares of silky white fabric, the show’s backdrop.
“Last year I lost my dad to cancer,” begins a note on the public invitation Cornall posted to Instagram. “After he passed, I had the continuous thought, ‘My dad will never see me get married.’”
At The Keep, she gestures toward the window at the large bridal shop across the road. White gowns line the windows and the racks inside.
“We’re opposite this wedding shop. I’ve been looking at it for a long time,” she says. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she remembers coming in and speaking to her friends at the studio. “I was like, ‘My dad’s not going to see me get married.’ It was this weird weight that I was holding, and I hadn’t done a show for a while. It was a concept I wanted to explore.”
This show is very dear to her heart, even though it’s not a real wedding. “I’m not actually getting married, but it’s part of the enjoyment that I get – people dressing up in my clothes and feeling really special. I’ve had friends come in for fittings and it’s literally like they’re glowing – like they’re the bride.”
Cornall’s been steadily carving her own niche in the local fashion industry since she started sewing during the first lockdown in 2020. “I would video call my friend every day who I went to school with, and we’d just sit there and sew for like eight hours.”
Ange Gordon, creative director at Wellington boutique The Service Depot, was the first to get in touch, asking if Cornall had any pieces she could stock. “I was like, ‘Funny you say that – I have a whole collection!’” laughs Cornall.
Every Emma Jing garment is one-off. They have distinctive playful, off-kilter folds, drapes, bubbles and ruffles, often with multipurpose ribbons that can be tied in numerous ways. A top could also be a skirt and vice versa, and while the pieces are often visually complex, they’re easy – and, most of all, fun – to wear.
At this weekend’s show, the wedding theme extends to a special cake and a cellist (more clever friends pitching in), and Cornall says she’s trying to figure out how to make a champagne tower out of plastic cups. Just like a bride-to-be, she has weather anxiety – but hopes it will stay clear.
Cornall is moving to the UK just days after the show, which she says feels bittersweet. On one hand, it’s exciting to be moving; on the other, she’ll be leaving behind many of her friends and collaborators. Plus, this is the most prepared she’s ever been for a fashion show, this being her third. In 2021, she and Groves held a joint show with designer Rawiri Brown on a Southern Line train at rush hour in central Auckland, moving to a car park when the train arrived at Parnell Station. Hundreds of people came to watch.
“It’s really special to have a widespread network of people that are willing to help and spend time,” says Cornall.
The rest of the show’s invitation is just as moving.
“Losing someone you love dearly is very difficult, but the memories we have of them remind us of the love we have for them. Dad, I think of you and miss you every day. This show is dedicated to you. I know you are watching somewhere with pride.
“Let us come together and celebrate love.
“The show will be held on the 17th of June, koha entry. This is a very special show to me, so many special people in my life who have helped me put this show together. I hope you can make it.”
Emma Jing Wedding Show will now happen at 3:30pm at 510 Karangahape Road due to wet weather.