Interview: Celine Chapman of Celine Rita Boutique

Rachel Wu

Rachel is currently Chelsey's Editor for all things Beauty & Lifestyle. She is an Auckland based writer and freelance journalist. She has also worked at NZ Fashion Week 2012 as a social media blogger, writing for Nzfashionfiles. She is an avid health foodie, yogi and surfer. She also loves witty poetry and hilarious banter!

To celebrate the launch of her luxe Winter 13’ collection, Rachel had the pleasure of popping in to the Celine Rita Boutique on Newton Rd with Celine Chapman, designer and founder of Celine Rita Boutique.

The history of the Celine Rita brand holds a very special story. Can you tell me more about how you started out in the fashion industry?

Growing up, I have always had a love for fashion and design. So it was no surprise spending my university holidays creating pretty dresses and drawing patterns. Soon after, friends and family started asking to buy my designs and demand quickly grew into a long list of regular clients. After graduating from AUT in 2008 with a Bachelor of Fashion Design, this part time hobby took a more serious turn and the collection really took off. I decided to create a brand, and using my middle name ‘Rita’ after my grandmother who was also a dressmaker.
Not long after, I organised a casual photo shoot to show off some of my range on my personal Facebook page, and the response was overwhelming. Orders flooded in and I even had to bring a machinist on board to help keep up with demand. And in 2009 the Celine Rita label was officially launched.

And ever since then, the brand has continually garnered a successful following and great exposure, especially at New Zealand Fashion Week. What have your experiences been like showcasing your designs down the runway?

It feels like such a long time ago, but in 2010 I opened up my Celine Rita boutique/showroom in central Auckland on Newton Road. It was a very exciting time as I also took part in New Zealand Fashion Week’s New Generation show later that year and won the New Generation Award. Having had a positive experience showcasing my first collection, the following year I completed my first solo show at New Zealand Fashion Week. It was very hectic, organising everything from choosing the models, finding the correct shoes  (finally deciding on Kathryn Wilson) as well as all the hair and make-up on the day. Everything went so well in fact that I managed to gain my very first international stockist in Hong Kong! And from then onwards I have had the privilege to be given sponsorship from many well-known brands such as MAC, Rekorderlig, Stella Artois, Kim Crawford Wine and more recently, L’Oreal hair.

From your point of view, what sets your brand apart from other New Zealand fashion brands?

I am quite the romantic! I strongly believe in the traditional aspects of fashion and dressmaking – staying original and true to my ‘C.R’ brand, still keeping it high-end and bringing back the romance of fashion. Having launched my boutique store / workroom in Newton on Upper Queen Street is exactly why I have done so, away from the hustle bustle of modern shopping precincts. Nowadays fashion has become a disposable commodity, and I really wanted to bring back that customised feel of an independent boutique store. Nothing feels more personal and endearing than having a customer come in to the shop and having a garment especially made and fitted – leaving them feeling appreciated and wonderful. That is how I want everyone to feel whenever they are wearing my creations. Every season, a lot of thought and care goes into the process when I am designing: sourcing from local suppliers - from fabric selections to trending looks as well as incorporating comfort into each garment, and creating multiple samples to ensure that it is the best that it can be. Getting a garment to look 100% perfect can be difficult but it is what I always aim for.

You have recently returned from your travels to Europe over the summer, where you gathered inspiration for your Winter Collection ‘Comme Ci, Comme Ca’ – what aspects of the trip particularly inspired you?

The whole experience was like a dream and I was particularly captivated during my time in Florence and Paris. It was also the everyday objects I saw in Europe that really inspired the winter range – from the beautifully crafted doors, street lamps and windows. I drew inspiration from everywhere. I was especially drawn to two specific muses for this range – The  Parisian’s Audrey Tatou and Clemence Poesy.

This Winter 13’ Collection aims to make women feel feminine and effortlessly cool. This is achieved through the careful selection of fabric textures and colours. Each garment is carefully designed to fit perfectly to a woman’s silhouette.

What garments / trends can we expect to see more of this winter?

With it being chillier and all, a bit of colour is always popular during winter season. You can expect to see plenty of colour blocking and textures – predominantly smart tailored pants, faux fur pieces, rich hues of fuchsia pink and leopard print, all made in lush fabrics. Think silk, tweed wools, lace and fur. Featuring in my collection I have a gorgeous faux fur jacket in brown/gold, perfect for those night strolls, as well as a beige wool blend classique trench coat. Lace pieces are definitely in, with a wrap hem and skirt detailing. I have featured a few cute shift dresses in leopard print, teal blue, fluoro pink and a violet floral print, all inspired from my Parisian travels. One of my personal favourites is the leopard printed ‘Amour Jumpsuit’, which actually means ‘love’ in French. It is a stunning statement piece and looks great paired with one of the luxe trench coats.

What can we expect to see in your Spring 13’ Collection later this year?

At the moment, I am fascinated with Princess Diana, so it is very centred around that theme: from a young nineteen year old bride, evolving into an admirable woman of peace and kindness.  Think classic, pretty dresses where you can wear with flats or dress it up with heels for a more formal event. Everything is still in design mode and currently we are still testing out different fabrics for the dresses. So far I have found a lovely purple patterned fabric called ‘Little & Friday’ (like the café in Newmarket !) and a eye-catching baby blue will be a key colour in the collection. Following on the Princess Diana theme, one of my favourite quotes of hers I have pinned to my inspiration / work board: ‘’ I like to be a free spirit. Some don’t like that, but that’s the way I am.’’

Celine Rita has been well known and worn at many social events around Auckland, especially at the Ellerslie races, the BMW Polo, NZ Fashion Week as well as the A-List Winter Social.

If you have a special event coming up, be sure to pop in and see Celine herself at the Celine Rita Boutique on 136B Newton Road and online at

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