Fashion twins


Street level stylists in New York were photographed for years by Bill Cunningham and collected into a fabulous movie recently to celebrate his art, his eye, his devotion to the goddess. The film also shows us that his photographs were his tribute paid to these mainly anonymous women making an appearance on the streets of New York. Dressing with flair, care, and sometimes courage, such a woman stands out against the incoming tide of grey neutrality. She earns attention by constructing a look, and at the same time she inspires a broader understanding of fashion, the fashion that she makes by wearing her take on what’s going on. This takes skill, commitment, and a kind of love – love of clothes and colour and display, and love of fashion as an active, daily exchange between players where the currency is aesthetics and finesse. This is fashion as participation, not imitation.
Her home is her dressing room and all the world’s a stage (thank you Oscar). And with any luck, someone has their eyes open and their faculties engaged, able to receive the gift of her appearance. Whatever else she does, she’s giving us that.
You don’t have to live in New York to be like this. Dunedin twins Nellie and Elza Jenkins do it all the time. Hang around George Street at the end of the day and keep an eye out. You might just see tall redhead twins parading along the main street, performing being stylish, famous, and twins. Even in this small city, the street is a stage. They own it. They dress up for their audience; they drink the ambrosia of attention. Friday nights are especially good as there are repeat performances, sometimes with entourage.
Identical twins grow up being noticed so its almost natural to take this a step further and milk it. Elza and Nellie have part time modelling careers and got public notice last year in a New Zealand’s Next Top Model, where they were close to the top then split up to great dramatic effect. Later there was talk of going to New York and signing up with modelling agencies, but whatever happened they are back again, walking up and down and being seen. They are not yet twenty so have plenty of time to develop real style – at the moment they are still doing fashion as imitation. But the great thing about these striking young women is that they keep doing it, they keep giving us this. They really are grand.


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