It was five years ago that iconic New Zealand fashion house Kate Sylvester started pouring our organic wines crafted by Huia for their guests. Designer Kate sat down with Winemaker Claire over a glass or two at Seabreeze Café, Kate’s local and an avid er of Huia wines, to talk about why their brands are working together and how this relationship came about.


It was during a during a quiet session at Golden Dawn (now gone but never forgotten) that Kate and husband, Wayne Conway, Director at Kate Sylvester, chanced upon Huia Vineyards after seeing the Huia Brut 2009 on the winelist. The Huia Brut was a refreshing glass of bubbles made in the same traditional way as authentic Champagne - and the name Huia, a native New Zealand bird sadly now extinct, appealed to both Kate and Wayne.

Intrigued by the winery and on the look out for a quality glass of bubbles to offer at various Kate Sylvester events, Wayne made a call to Marlborough. As is often the case with a boutique producer where the job description is very broad, it was Claire Allan, Huia Winemaker & Owner (alongside husband Mike), who answered the phone.

The opportunity to share Huia wine with more Kiwis was seriously inviting. While Huia wines are exported to countries like the US, Australia, Japan and Norway, only a small percentage of the wine is actually sold here. There was a desire to change this but to be able to sell more wine at home, more New Zealanders needed to know about it. The Kate Sylvester immediately felt like the right fit to help with this.

Designer Kate Sylvester | Winemaker Claire Allan

Designer Kate Sylvester | Winemaker Claire Allan

Huia Vineyards officially started in 1996. This was just three years after the Kate Sylvester brand started under its original moniker of Sister. A shared history and longevity was just the start of the common ground that has led to these two brands finding alignment as both companies share a deep desire to express a social conscious.

Huia Vineyards has been certified organic since 2011 and practices biodynamic principles both in the vineyard and the wine cellar. The Allans believe they have a duty to act as temporary custodians for the land thus must ensure the land is left healthy for the generations that come after them.

In 2007, Kate Sylvester adopted an environmentally sustainable policy commited to supporting the local garment production industry by producing locally made, high quality garments. When local manufacture is not possible Kate Sylvester works closely with hand-picked factories off-shore. From 2015, Kate Sylvester has been an ambassador of the Child Labor Free initiative and is proudly accredited as Child Labor Free at a manufacturing level.


One phone call, five years, many glasses of Huia bubbles and ten new Kate Sylvester collections later, it is clear this partnership is still a match made in heaven.

Sounds like a grand excuse to pop a cork and make a toast to collaboration.



Images by Emily Raftery | Words by Morven McAuley