The tagline for Olivia Cashmore’s eponymous clothing label is “Ugh, not another fashion brand”. It’s the designer’s tongue-in-cheek nod to the saturated market she operates in – but with her fifth collection of meticulous, sophisticated garments launching today, Cashmore’s having no trouble standing out.
The Auckland-based designer launched her New Zealand-made brand in mid-2021 with a pre-order model that has now evolved to more standard sales via her website. Prior to this, she’d spent four years working at Maggie Marilyn – first in production, then sampling and design – but she started sewing her own clothes long before that. From age 12, inspired by her talented seamstress grandmother, Cashmore was crafting her version of pieces that her pre-teen budget didn’t quite stretch to buying in-store.
Now she’s got her own serene showroom on Newmarket’s Kent Street with a display rack out the front and workspace behind.
“My clothes are definitely a reflection of my own personal style,” Cashmore tells Broadsheet during a showroom visit. “Not that I felt like I couldn’t get that from other brands, but I think when you have a deep love and passion for something you want to try it yourself and put your own ideas out there.”
She gravitates towards tailoring, incorporating traditional menswear techniques here and there for a fit that often walks the line between what’s considered masculine and feminine.
With her latest collection, named Quality over Deadlines, Cashmore says she’s drilled down into who she is as a designer and what her aesthetic is. She has created her ideal version of wardrobe staples that aim to make women feel instantly comfortable and polished when they don them – and all have slightly unexpected details that make each piece a little more singular.
“We’re all trying to make things that stand the test of time but, for me, I love a bit of a twist and a bit of a quirk,” says Cashmore. “Those design features are important to me to try and make my clothes feel different to someone else’s.”
This approach is embodied over and over in this collection – like in the Simone trench, a sage green coat in light, silky merino wool that splits almost fully up the back and has a detachable scarf that you can throw around your shoulders. A blue-and-white-striped shirt is a classic, but Cashmore’s done a version with two contrasting striped materials, alternating on each half of the body and sleeves.
The Willimena dress is one of her favourites, a strapless black dress that hugs the body nearly down to the ankle and has a soft yet sculptural draped fabric detail on the front at hip-level. “This is the Olivia Cashmore [version of] sexy. For me, my ‘sexy’ is really elegant as well, and I love the idea of people wearing this with a sandal and a flat, throwing a boyfriend blazer over the top and not necessarily wearing it more casually but not only wearing it to a wedding.”
Cashmore wants to encourage her customers to think of multiple ways and scenarios that they can wear her pieces, so that they still feel special but easy to style as well. The teal wool Gita skirt is one she sees as appealing to women of a wide range of ages; with its fold-over front and split that’s not too revealing, it could be dressed down with a tank top or T-shirt, or worn to work and beyond.
All her previous pant styles will stay because they’re top sellers – “which I’m very happy about because I’m a pants person,” she says.
Part of what makes Cashmore’s clothes feel so luxurious is their high-quality fabrics – merino wool, weighty cotton, silk. “I’m a big fabric girl,” she says. With this collection, she was drawn to the teal and sage wool tones before she’d even started designing the actual clothes. While they’re not as ubiquitous as grey and black, white and navy, they “still felt neutral to me”, she adds. “I do love colour, but I felt like they had a warm kind of tenderness to them that I wanted my clothes to represent.”
Cashmore spent a particularly long time on this collection because she’s looking at it as her foundational line – her versions of the pillars of the modern woman’s wardrobe.
Like any designer, Cashmore has evolved since she started out, and thinks that perhaps there will be customers who’ve followed her until now that don’t resonate with this collection. “But I feel like this is me, and this is who I am going forward. So, it’s a nice moment for me to feel like I love every piece that I’ve done."