Emma Knuckey

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18 Darby Street

Emma Knuckey was living on a Taranaki farm with her husband and children when she decided to send some of her fashion illustrations to the London designer Frederick Starke - a founder of the London Model House Group, set up to promote the British ready-to-wear industry.

When Emma received an invite to meet some of London’s top fashion designers, she decided to leave immediately for England. 1949 was an exciting time; the ‘New Look’ silhouette was shaping post-war fashion, and British designers embraced the look that signalled the end of post war rationing.

Emma returned to New Zealand in 1950 with plans to settle her family in Auckland and start her own business. She was 37 years old when she opened her salon, Gowns by Emma Knuckey, with her business partner Betty Clark. The salon and upstairs workroom were located on a corner site at 18 Darby Street.

Emma gained a reputation for beautifully cut garments, self described as “pure uncluttered design and line which would take the wearer anywhere from morning to dinner at night”. In 1959, Emma and Betty closed their Darby Street salon in order to focus on the wholesale side of their business with Emma’s exclusive gowns and suits stocked in department stores throughout New Zealand.

They returned briefly to retail in the early 1970s with a store in the newly refurbished Strand Arcade where Emma’s hot pants, flared trousers and miniskirts were sold under a new youth label, Miss K.

Read more at www.nzfashionmuseum.org.nz/emma-knuckey

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