This Local Fashion Designer Is Taking Dunedin by Storm

A photo of Sara Munro in Company of Strangers.

Sara Munro

Designer and local, Sara Munro, built her Company of Strangers brand on a strong ethos, bright colours, and bold designs in Dunedin.

Words: Olivia Sisson
Photos: Nancy Zhou

Company of Strangers is a Dunedin fashion label that has made a name for themselves with innovative jewellery pieces, modern fashion and a commitment to New Zealand production and manufacturing. The George Street storefront hosts original pieces from designer and founder, Sara Munro, and highlights all of the quality fabrics and careful construction that goes into each and every Company of Strangers number. Sara gave us a glimpse into how the brand operates from concept to design and production.

How did you get into fashion?

I studied fashion here in Dunedin years ago. I’d always known that I wanted to work in fashion or architecture. After I finished studying I kept exploring. I travelled a bit and then worked for a Wellington designer before moving back to Dunedin, where I’m originally from, to work for NOM*D.

What does your creative process look like?

I’m a very hands on designer and I can’t draw. If I do draw a piece, it never ends up looking like what I imagined in my head. I design by just starting with an idea and a shape and then cutting and sewing until it’s perfect. It's a lengthy process but it works for me. My pattern maker and I work back and forth in a very collaborative way.  We have three people in the workroom and together we sign off on every detail. When we’re finished with a collection, the pieces aren’t really just ‘mine’ per se. It’s very much a collaboration.

What does production look like for Company of Strangers?

We started with jewellery but now obviously do clothes in a big way too. We make all of our own samples and prototypes and never outsource that. Our production is done in New Zealand, so we know exactly how and where everything is being put together.

Do you have any favourite pieces in this season's line?

I’ve been living in the Departure coat. It’s bright and I love wearing colour in the winter. Company of Strangers features a lot of bold colours. I also love the orange sweater we did this winter. It’s made in Tauranga and is such a beautiful quality. I think about items that I want or need when I start designing a collection, as a jumping off point, and then I try to design each collection to complement the last. Because our clothes are designed and made here, we do have a higher price point, so the timelessness of each piece is important to me.

What inspires you?

I create a lot of my colour palettes from memories or previous experiences I’ve had travelling. I flick through old travel pics often, and I always look back to galleries I’ve visited to get inspiration from the artists’ work. Our rings are a great example of that link to memories. The shapes are from old family jewellery. A lot of people say things like ‘Oh my grandmother had a ring like that’ when they see our pieces. We’ve cast some heirloom rings in silver and gold, cut some in half and just made them new again. People tend to buy jewellery to celebrate or commemorate an occasion and these are a special way to mark those celebrations.