Wellington's ENA : : New Kid On The Block

On Ghuznee Street, a bold, blue dress keeps a gold Alexa Stark shirt company in the storefront of Nadya France-White’s new store, ENA. With both garments sourced from opposite poles of the fashion and geographical world, Nadya is starting on “phase one of the dream,” giving international and local brands a platform where they can sit beside one another in union of extremely good taste and fabulously textured fabrics.

Nadya’s black bob, stencilled onto the glass storefront, is scruffier in real life - but only in the way a successful fashion curator and designer’s would be. In the corner of the store, between cooing over the new Block Building bag collection and sweeping my fingers over each piece, Nadya let me in on some of the secrets behind this amalgamation of NZ and international designers. Kick your feet up and indulge in hearing from the coolest new kid on the Wellington fashion block.

 

What motivated you to open ENA after graduating from Massey?

In terms of opening my own store, it was never the plan. I don’t really know if I ever even had a plan, it kind of just happened. I got to a point where I had worked for all of these amazing people in town (GAG, Area 51) but I still found that there was no store representing things that I was interested in, there was no place that I could go that really inspired me, nor where I could learn something new about someone else from around the world doing incredible things.

 

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Photography by Maddie Chatterley for WG

 

What pushed you to bring these specific designers together?

Part of the concept is to use this store as a platform for emerging designers to showcase their work, right next to other emerging international designers. We are tucked away in this little corner of the world so it’s harder for local makers and designers to get the credit outside of New Zealand.

 

More women are conscious of local designers, which is amazing, but I think still offering these different designers is always going to be quite important and inspiring. It’s always cool when you discover a new brand, designer, or artist doing cool things because it can only help you in your own work.

 

It’s cool that you see the inspiration we can get from these international brands! What’s the process like, deciding which brands to bring in? Is there a common theme?

It’s hard to pinpoint, because I’m so new it’s all based on gut! It’s whether I connect with something, whether it’s through the designer’s concept, or it’s what they’re doing in the world, what they’re trying to say, how they’re making their clothing. Also a combination of if I think it will work for a Wellington-based woman.

 

At the end of the day, it needs to find a home, so it’s easy to get lost in concepts and ethics - but it’s about finding that right balance. It just needs to be cool, it needs to be beautiful. I try not to think much into it.

 

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Photography by Maddie Chatterley for WG

 

I’ve interviewed other Wellington creatives and they always mention how supportive the Wellington community is. Have you experienced this underlying support between Wellington local creatives?

There’s a massive amount of love, huge amounts. I feel like I already have an advantage because I’ve lived here my whole life, which is great, but the amount of support and love that I have had thrown at me has been pretty overwhelming.

 

It’s just so great to kind of feel the love. Everyone’s on board. That’s another big reason why I decided to start here; because of the support.

 

Right, because Wellington is one of the few places where you can rely on that support. Do you find inspiration from other creative fields?

Completely! I think with Elie, [Nadya’s partner; founder of Five Boroughs, and Five and Dime] he’s obviously into food and he’s a really good curator as well, so we find it really helpful bouncing ideas off each other. We’re together all the time, so we’re constantly involved in each other’s work: food, clothing art, it’s all somehow intertwined.

 

In the midst of our discussion, a group of holidaying middle-aged woman waltz in, proceeding to gush over every little detail of the store. Nadya stood proudly, only minutes ago, with a swish of her hands, had she explained the feeling of seeing someone fall head over heels for these garments.

 

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Photography by Maddie Chatterley for WG

 

It’s interesting to see who comes in here. Have you been surprised by different demographics showing interest, or did you always kind of know who you wanted to see in here?

It’s completely a mixed bag! The idea was always to kind of keep it broad. You know, I wanted a store that appealed to a 1st year Uni student, as well as a 60 year old old woman. It’s about finding the right balance between the brands as well. When buying you have to think of what type of woman is going to want this type of thing. So it’s always keeping that customer in mind, as well as creating a space.

 

Do you have a preference over either designing, or bringing in and curating a collection of brands?

The dream has always been to have a brand and a store. I decided to open a store first and foremost because I felt there was a need for it in Wellington and in New Zealand, in terms of being introduced to these new labels.

 

This is phase one of the dream but I am currently working on my collection for next winter, which will be slotted in next year. I think it’s a really good way of doing it because it just means I am able to put my designs next to brands that I respect.

 

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Photography by Maddie Chatterley for WG

 

Over your years in the fashion world, have you seen New Zealand’s perspective on fashion evolve?

Fashion has always been put on this platform. I mean, it’s perceived as something quite glamorous overall, but in terms of the arts, it’s very lowbrow. It’s hard for designers to claim a sense of notoriety, or just be put in the same league as other artists. I think it’s progressively getting there, but it’s so hard because fashion is so personal to the person who’s making it. It depends on where it’s coming from.

 

We as New Zealanders, we’re finding our own feet in terms of our own designers, family owned mills, and using what’s on offer here. I think a lot more designers are pushing that a lot, so it’s awesome to see. I see a lot of great things coming out of New Zealand!

 

With one last longing glance in the direction of the delicious garments in ENA, I ushered myself out the door. Nadya, the young fashion curator from Titahi Bay is elegant and bashfully inspiring in her excitement for fashion’s future. The doors are wide open, the garments and designers ready to find a home. Give yourself an afternoon to indulge in the turquoise turtle necks and silk pants, just one bag won’t hurt. It would be rude not to, really.

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