Otago Polytechnic

Can you identify the place fashion is from by looking at the clothing? That is the question Jane Malthus, Caroline McCaw, Leyton Glen and Margo Barton asked themselves as they prepared a contemporary exhibition of Dunedin fashion known as A Darker Eden.

Situated in the non-traditional exhibition space of six former cement silos on Auckland’s waterfront, the exhibition showcased the work of prominent Dunedin fashion labels Tanya Carlson, NOM*d and Mild Red. In addition, iD Dunedin Fashion Week collections and Otago Polytechnic student designs were also on display helping explore the concept of place-based fashion identity.

“Some cities are just considered darker than others,” explains Jane Malthus. “In the southern hemisphere, Melbourne and Dunedin have that reputation, deserved or not, but both have used it to their advantage. Dunedin’s neo-gothic and colonial architecture, four-seasons-in-one-day weather and harbour and hills setting have long attracted writers, artists, musicians and fashion, jewellery and graphic designers to settle here,” she says.

“However although creativity and non-conformity are part of Dunedin’s life force, not all fashion emanating from Dunedin is dark, heavy, wintery or all-encompassing. In reality, designers who do all that also do light, airy, printed and even floaty work, so we wanted to acknowledge that breadth.”

The exhibition ran for two weeks, attracting 3000 visitors and was the first time such an extensive scope of Dunedin fashion has been displayed.

The exhibition’s design process was analysed in a paper delivered at Interplay: International Association of Societies of Design Research conference in late 2015.

“What we wanted to communicate was that regionally-based identity can impact on design process and outcomes as well as showcasing the city in a new light and I think we were successful in doing that,” Jane affirms.


Malthus, J., McCaw C., Leyton, G., Barton M.  Interplay and Inter-place: A collaborative exhibition addressing place-based identity in fashion design. International Association of Design Research Societies, Brisbane, Australia, 2 – 5 November.