Kevin Berkahn's Plums

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12 O'Connell Street

The seeds for a fashion career were sown when Kevin was in his teens. Growing up on a Dannevirke farm, he enjoyed watching his mother sew. Using Vogue patterns, he began sewing clothes for his sister and he made his first debutante’s dress when he was 17.

Moving to Auckland he found work in a Takapuna boutique called Shoreline Originals designing and making clothes for stock. He opened his own shop in Milford and in 1960, not long after his 21st birthday, he moved that business into the central city.

Kevin had big ambitions and in 1971 he organised a promotional showcase of New Zealand designers. He took a show of garments made by himself, Babs Radon, Tarantella, Vinka Lucas and others to London, Honolulu and Michigan.

In 1973 he opened a second salon in Sydney’s Double Bay but this venture ended badly and in 1984 Kevin returned to Auckland to open Plums, at the front of the Commercial Union Building Arcade in O’Connell Street.

His glamorous creations earned him the nickname ‘The Dynasty designer’, a reference to the long-running 1980s’ television series noted for its glitzy wardrobe. Made of crepe, with padded shoulders and ruffles, the Krystle Carrington shirt was named after one of the series’ leading ladies and became a bestseller. In 1987, with his wife Shirley managing Plums, Kevin opened a 4500 square foot megastore devoted entirely to bridal-wear and accessories in the Sheraton Hotel complex on Karangahape Road, confirming his status as the King of Brides.

Read more at www.nzfashionmuseum.org.nz/kevin-berkahn

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