Anjali Stewart and Rachel Easting, longtime best friends, graduated from Otago Polytechnic in 2004 and 2005 with fashion and art degrees respectively. They established their fashion business straight away, initially calling it Love Lies Bleeding. The name changed to twenty-seven names in 2010.
Rachel and Anjali have been best friends since the age of 12. Rachel remembers how Anjali stood out from the crowd in her eccentric choice of clothing, which she describes as a "bunch of crazy stuff". The plucky teens would scour Wellington's second-hand clothing stores together for cheap, interesting finds. After learning the basics of sewing at intermediate school, Rachel's mother Susi tried to broaden their knowledge, although the lessons were really demonstrations; Susi sewed while Rachel and Anjali watched. It wasn't until secondary school that they experimented for themselves.
Anjali's first sewing lesson at high school was traumatic and ended in tears. She felt out of her depth working on a hoodie, repeatedly sewing and unpicking, making slow progress. Eventually she improved, gained confidence and began to like classes, especially the design component. Anjali acquired her own sewing machine at 15 and the first garments the girls made together were patterned from the high-school hoodie. They made their sweatshirts in delicate shades of baby pink and baby blue, the most fashionable colours at the time!
In 2008, two years after they set up their fashion label, they showed their Smoke and Mirrors collection at iD Dunedin Fashion Week. It was described as "witty and fresh", with "unusual pairings of fabrics" (Otago Daily Times, 27 February 2008).
Their many sources of inspiration continue to be transformed and translated into appealing prints, clever garments and comprehensive collections. Hard work and determination, evident in both designers since Otago Polytechnic days, have seen them establish retail outlets in Wellington and Auckland as well as selling through other stores and online (Otago Daily Times, 3 March 2008).
Text by Sarah-Jane Rowland. Banner image © twenty-seven names.
First published February 2015. Updated June 2019