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By India• 7 Mar 2019
Anjali Burnett remembers exactly what Rachel Easting was wearing the first time she saw her:“A Winnie the Pooh T-shirt and bike shorts.”
Not quite what you’d expect from one of Wellington’s most fashionable women, but then, in Rachel’s defence, she was eight years old at the time – this auspicious meeting between the two future founders of twenty-seven names took place during a game of tag at their Karori primary school.
They went on to attend Wellington Girls’ College and then Otago Polytechnic, where Rachel studied fine art and Anjali fashion. Anjali always knew she wanted to design clothing, says Rachel.
“It became really obvious it was something we could do together and that I had something else to bring to the table.”
In 2005, they collaborated on a small run of T-shirts and hoodies, which they sewed at their flat and sold through a friend’s store. The range, Anjali insists, was “terrible”.
“There’s nothing else you can say about it. We didn’t know what we were doing. I didn’t go overseas until I was 25, hadn’t seen a thing. I was like, ‘I think I really like yellow!’”
She’s being too humble, of course. The label may have come a long way since then, but Anjali and Rachel’s first designs were good enough that shops around the country started stocking them – and so began twenty-seven names.
Right from the outset, it was clear what each person’s role would be in the business.
“When we first started, Rachel really didn’t like communicating with others,” Anjali says bluntly, which causes both women to burst out laughing. “And I was like, ‘Okay, well, I don’t really want to cut this [pattern] out.’”
As a result, although they design and make all the big business decisions together, Rachel looks after sampling and production – the practical, hands-on stuff – and Anjali handles management and marketing.
The “playful, joyful” twenty-seven names style is very much a combination of both their aesthetics, which means they’ve become masters of compromise.
“We often have opposing ideas, but I think that’s what makes us quite strong,” Anjali says. “We can argue for three hours about how a dress can look, and then it can end up in its perfect iteration.”
Rachel adds, “I’m really risk averse, so if we do anything interesting, it’s because Anj has suggested it, not because I have. But I think those checks and balances are good.”
Six years ago, the pair opened their flagship store on Vivian Street. Two Auckland shops followed, and in January they moved their Wellington premises to a gorgeous new spot on Ghuznee Street – number 27, of course.
“We’re so lucky to be here,” Anjali says. In fact, their workroom has been on Ghuznee Street for seven years, so they’re already firmly part of the community, used to getting through the workday fuelled by Milk Crate coffee and Customs doughnuts.
Now that the dust is settling after the move, it’s time to focus on designing their next winter range. They’re excited to get down to business, although Rachel admits they still struggle to snap out of best-mate mode in the office sometimes.
“We can come to work and waste an hour just talking about stuff rather than getting on with it.”
twenty-seven names is a Wellington based fashion label run by Anjali Stewart and Rachel Easting.