Nalla Fashions Limited
1961 - 1988
In June 1961 Gordon Allan wrote his surname in reverse to establish Nalla Fashions Limited and began making fashionable faux fur and synthetic suede coats and jackets.
Working from purpose built premises situated on the corner of West Terrace and Galatos St in Newton, Auckland, the company imported and used faux fur and other knit fabrics from Europe, as it sought to position itself as a leading maker and supplier of quality garments. Nalla also provided a number of current designers an entry into the business of fashion.
The chemical revolution in textiles in the first half of the 20th century gave the fashion industry a whole range of new synthetic fibres that often surpassed natural materials in terms of strength, ease of care, durability, and price. Alongside practical cloths such as nylon and Terylene, new technologies allowed the development of substitutes for materials such as fur, making them affordable and accessible for the everyday fashion pundit.
In the early 1970s, wanting to expand its range of products and to develop the brand, Gordon Allan employed Norman Rosser to make some changes to the business. Norm began by employing new talent including a very young Jane Daniels who had just completed a Graphic Arts course at ATI (now AUT) majoring in fashion illustration. Jane recalls that when she arrived at Nalla Fashions they were making, “hideous brilliant orange and purple fun-fur coats. Although ostensibly employed as a designer her role ranged across the whole of the business working with the production manager Bill Whitworth and the salesman Gary Gordon Ward, who she remembers dressed rather flamboyantly, wearing an aubergine suit and matching flowing coat when she accompanied him on a sales trip to Invercargill.
Designer Paul Chaplin, who has worked for many significant design houses over the years in New Zealand, began his career as a trainee cutter at Nalla in 1973. Under the watchful eye of senior cutter Beatrice Webb, Paul recalls being taught a better way to grade patterns, knowledge that has stood him in good stead over the years. At the time the factory had at least a dozen machinists, pressers, and warehouse staff and everything was manufactured under the one roof.
The showroom and administration were on the ground floor with their entrance at 10 West Terrace, and in 1972 Linda Cowper worked in the office under Mrs Laurie Mowat, the office manager. This was Linda's first job out of school and she had moved to Auckland from Helensville and lived with her Aunty Flo who had a flat in Pitt St, an easy walk to the Nalla factory just off Karangahape Road. Generous staff discounts and a love of fashion meant that Linda, and her mother, acquired some special pieces that have been kept in the family all these years and continue to be worn. One of her coats, the Penny lane black faux fur coat has been documented and is included in the related garments below.
Little information has been discoverable about Nalla in the late 1970s and 1980s but it is known that the business was deregistered in August 1988.
Text by Lenard Johnston. Cover image: Detail of the A/W 1974 advertisement featured in Apparel Magazine.