Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Shen: Mary-Ellen's perfect circle

Life for Mary-Ellen Prendergast has been something of a circuitous route which is, perhaps, exactly why she has called her new label Shen. A graduate of Wellington Polytech's fashion school, she cut her teeth with legendaryAuckland designer Patrick Steele before spending two years working at Savage London and Top Shop stockist Poetic Gem in the UK. Upon returning to Auckland Mary-Ellen spent a decade at High Society as designer for the label Obi where she learnt enough to feel confident about starting her own label.

In ancient Egyptian, Shen means encircle and in hieroglyphics a shen ring represented eternal protection whilst in modern Chinese Mandarin, its meanings include awareness and consciousness. Looking at her first Shen collection "Forever Lasting" it is clear that Prendergast was both 'aware' and 'conscious' when she went about designing the collection as it is an accomplished first effort influenced  by her adventures and love of all things Asian. More poignantly, her successful battle with life-threatening breast cancer less than a decade ago ensures she knows better than most the meaning of 'eternal protection'. "Without such a life-changing experience I may not have had the drive to start my own label," she says. "I'd like Shen to embody the personal values I bring to my design and reflect the qualities and aspirations of the women who buy Shen." With this first collection, she has achieved that. Photos: Stephen Tilley, styling Ana McDonald.