Pharlain is a new elevated knitwear label making relaxed, feminine pieces to keep you warm this winter – and many winters to come.
Launched in late February, the brand was founded in Auckland by high school friends Aimee McFarlane and Brooke Nelson. While Nelson runs the business side of things and has a day job in the corporate world, it’s McFarlane’s baby, as the creative director and designer – and it isn’t her first venture.
McFarlane co-founded the Wellington-based streetwear label formerly known as Lonely Hearts Club in 2003, which pivoted in 2009 to lingerie and today goes by Lonely. In 2010, McFarlane moved on to work as head womenswear designer for longstanding label Huffer, and today works as a designer at AS Colour (alongside running Pharlain).
McFarlane says she’s been somewhat pigeonholed as a streetwear designer, but Pharlain breaks away from that. “That’s not the full sum of me,” she tells Broadsheet. “And I do actually naturally have quite a feminine aesthetic.”
It’s been an underlying urge for a long time to bring some creative joy back to her life on her own terms, she says. “I’ve always loved knitwear and wanted to do something unique with colour.”
Each of the five debut styles is made from 100 per cent brushed merino wool with a weighty yarn. They are relatively heavy and super warm, and most feature eye-catching knitted patterns that are more interesting than your standard plain jumper.
The Marjory Sweater comes in creamy ivory or a powdery light magenta tone and features a grosgrain black ribbon detail woven in the front and around the cuffs of the eyelet design. It’s named after McFarlane’s maternal grandmother, who she fondly remembers always knitting.
“The funny thing is she never actually knitted anything in particular and would just unravel the knitting at the end, roll the wool back into a ball and start knitting with it again,” she says. “A sort of knitting meditation, I guess.”
The Ola Zip Crew, which is named after Nelson’s grandmother, features a honeycomb pattern, rib collar and zip on the front. The magenta version is McFarlane’s personal favourite from the collection. “It’s quite a dense knit,” she says. “It actually needs to be quite cold to wear it, but I’m just a massive fan of that colour combo.”
McFarlane says the majority of the pieces are designed to inject some colour into your winter wardrobe, and are made to be worn for years to come. Just make sure to never hang it (it will bend out of shape) and use a fine wool brush to remove pilling, which will inevitably happen with wear given it’s a natural fibre.
Originally, McFarlane wasn’t sure about her first samples. “What I had in my mind and what I thought I was sending off design-wise came back quite different,” she says. “I just shut them in the cupboard and didn’t look at them for two months.”
It wasn’t until she showed friend and fashion stylist Julia Thompson – who also styled Pharlain’s first collection lookbook – that she began to see them in a new light. Thompson was also one of the people who encouraged McFarlane to start the new label in the first place.
“I ummed and ahhed about it for so long,” she says. “I’m definitely more of a behind-the-scenes person, and she just really pushed me to make the damn samples and take it from there.”
Another long-time friend also had a hand in the name. Pharlain is the linguistic origin of the name McFarlane, which long-time friend Becky Ollivier of Mayk Studio put forward while creating the brand’s identity.
Around August or September, in time for New Zealand’s summer, Pharlain will add 100 per cent cotton knitted and crochet pieces to the range to take you from pool to bar, including dresses, tanks and shirts.