Zambesi founder looks over fashion archives 40 years on

Surviving the fashion industry for decades is no simple feat, but that's the case for one Kiwi label that's turning 40.

To celebrate, Zambesi has dusted off thousands of garments from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and today, ahead of a special fashion show.

It was 1979. Th' Dudes had won single of the year for 'Be Mine Tonight', Rob Muldoon was Prime Minister, and Bob Marley played at Auckland's Western Springs. Not far away in the CBD, Zambesi - one of New Zealand's biggest fashion names - was born.

Liz Findlay, who came to New Zealand as a refugee from Greece, started the business with her husband Neville and it quickly grew.

"This is from 1997 from a show we did in Sydney," Liz says, holding a garment.

It's always been a family affair with both daughters working for the company.

"From being little and sitting under the sewing desk as a little kid, mum and dad were always working," said Marissa Findlay, Zambesi's brand manager.

In 40 years they've done it all. Designing bomber jackets, 1990s nightclub hot pant outfits, and a gown worn by singer Lorde.

There have been many highlights.

"Showing in London along with Karen Walker and World and my sister Magie, Nom D was another huge milestone and did bring a lot of international attention to our brands and New Zealand," said Liz.

But there have also been some challenges.

"There's been a lot more fast fashion that's come into the industry and I think in a way that's probably affected a lot more of the boutique brands," said Marissa.

Today they, along with current and former staff members, are preparing for their retrospective fashion week show, looking back at creations from the past 40 years.

"I really love this skirt, and in fact, I ended up wearing it. It is actually starting to deteriorate because it is a silk organza," said Liz, showing a skirt.

What do they think has kept customers happy for so long? Liz says they consider whether they would wear the clothes they design and care about quality and service.

And what's her fashion advice?

"You do feel confident and comfortable in what you're wearing.  You put it on, you feel great and then you forget about it and you don't have to keep checking yourself?"

Liz says she can't keep going forever but hopes that the brand will live on, even if it is in new hands.