Nom D has never been a fashion label for people who follow the pack – and founder Margi Robertson likes it that way. But that doesn’t mean it can’t draw a crowd. At this year’s New Zealand Fashion Week Kahuria, Nom D returned to the schedule for the first time in seven years – but rather than a runway show, it staged a film screening and a good ol’ Dunedin-style party, complete with over 500 attendees, Die! Die! Die! performing live and Southland cheese rolls.
“I love working with different art-focusing things,” Robertson told Broadsheet after the event. “I love music, I love all sorts of art and film. It’s not the first time we’ve made a film; we’ve done it from time to time in the last 20 years, and I think what people can do is have a look at it over and over again – almost like a good book or looking at a piece of art on the wall.”
The brand’s 1986 beginnings embraced Dunedin’s Gothic surroundings and translated them – initially – through knitwear, before expanding to full ready-to-wear collections. Robertson had also founded Plume, now a Dunedin retail institution, in 1978 to stock avant-garde international labels such as Commes des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto. Robertson’s elder sister Elisabeth (Liz) Findlay is behind Zambesi; two siblings who are considered New Zealand fashion royalty.
It’s not the first time Nom D has eschewed the traditional runway fashion show format; in 2010, the brand staged a theatre performance called Danse Macabre that centred on a post-apocalyptic dinner party.
For 2023’s showcase at Brad’s Warehouse in the CBD, three different, moody films were projected on screens to music on the lower level of the event space. Directed by Richard Shaw and Iain Frengley, with cinematography by Fengley and Alex Lovell-Smith, they depict model Clementine George wearing the new Au Courant Summer 2023 collection, alternately submerged in water and wandering an arid, rocky landscape like a fashion-clad nomad.
Robertson enjoys communicating Nom D’s attitude to an audience in a way that’s not “looking at 30 looks on models walking past”.
“I feel like it’s more of a forever thing. It’s quite important to me to have that feeling about what we do.”
Robertson’s shown collections internationally in London, Paris and New York – plus, she’s been travelling internationally for years to source for Plume, so the designer has a good grasp on the ebbs and flows of the global industry.
Looking at how New Zealand Fashion Week changed since Nom D last showed, Robertson notes administrative changes (it was purchased by entrepreneur Feroz Ali in 2021, and Yasmin Farry is the new general manager) as well as the four-year gap due to Covid – but mainly she enjoyed seeing a larger focus on Indigenous designers, as well as graduates and new-generation up-and-comers.
“I think you can almost see quite obviously that the old school (which is what I fit into), there’s not a huge presence of us – but we are still around.”
When asked to describe the spirit of Nom D in a few words, Robertson laughs and says, “How long have you got?”
“I think fiercely individual, I would say. Focusing on your own style, and actually not really being part of the pack – in a way that’s quietly so,” she continues. “It’s not about ‘Look at me’ – it’s actually about, ‘I feel really good in this and it’s easy for me to wear’.”
You can watch Nom D's Au Courant short films online now at nomdstore.com