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Trilby Yates

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200 Queen Street

A mutual love of fashion prompted sisters Trilby and Julia Yates to establish a fashion business that livened up Auckland’s Queen Street for more than 30 years.

Older sister Trilby, a trained milliner, decided to open a hat shop with Julia. The salon was called ‘Trilby Yates: The Ladies Paradise’. While Trilby could “take a tea towel and make a hat out of it”, Julia could barely sew but she did have presence, style and business acumen. Following Trilby’s early death, Julia carried on and also took responsibility for the care of Trilby’s daughter, Digsy, who she later adopted.

Moving away from millinery and taking on high fashion, she employed talented young designer, Nancy Hudson and in 1936 moved to the more prestigious address of 179 Queen Street. With its Oriental style decor and large round Chinese Moon Gate, her niece Ata remembers the exotic salon, “The store was dark red and shadowy. In one window there would be fresh flowers and in the other a mannequin dressed in something striking. The rest of the clothes were out of sight in wardrobes."

After the war the colour scheme was replaced by pink and cream and Julia hosted two ‘openings’ a year in store. All the garments were made in their workroom, located around the corner on the 2nd floor of 26 Durham Street West.

Digsy had become a cutter/designer by the early 1950s but when she decided to leave to get married, Julia made the decision to retire and close the business.

Read more at www.nzfashionmuseum.org.nz/trilby-yates

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