Colin Cole (1931-87), began his career in clothing design by undertaking a five-year apprenticeship as a cutter-designer with Classic Manufacturing in Auckland and taking sewing and pattern drafting lessons in his own time. He gained further experience in companies specialising in coats, lingerie and children’s wear (Poppetwear) before setting up on his own in 1958 in Karangahape Road,making evening and debutant dresses and high quality daywear. He subsequently moved to Queen Street next to Milne and Choyce, for a short time producing larger ranges of his styles, then on to Parnell as it was revitalised.In 1961 he won a Golden Shears award. He established a reputation as one of New Zealand’s leading high fashion designers in the 1960s, always producing one-off designs rather than ready-to-wear, and women travelled from all over the country to his studio for orders and fittings.
In 1975, Colin Cole diversified slightly as the market changed, moving into larger business premises in Parnell and advertising to manufacturers as a design consultant and pattern maker. He had also just designed new uniforms for NZ Railways. Deauville International was one company that contracted Colin Cole to design for their three ranges as part of a four-person team. The team designed for the labels ‘Deauville International’, ‘dile’ and ‘Lady Lana’. In the 1980s Cole sent a range of fifty outfits to a salon in Muscat, Oman.
Spectacular quality fabrics appealed to Colin Cole. Interestingly, the Eden Hore Collection contains dresses in the same fabric by Colin Cole and Kevin Berkahn. A painterly floral spring-summer sheer, printed in green, blue, brown, yellow and white, was made into a knee length dress with flared skirt, round neckline and two layer flared sleeves by Kevin Berkahn, and into a full length, waisted, long-sleeved dress with a square neckline yoke and cuffs in green satin, by Colin Cole. A 1973-4 Colin Cole evening dress in a sheer synthetic fabric printed with large floral motifs in apricot, green, blue, brown and purple, which are outlined with couched apricot and gold thread is a highlight of the Eden Hore Collection. The dress has a long straight skirt attached to a wide waistband, with an apron bib bodice. The yoke and dolman sleeves are cut from a plain apricot satin. Cole is also represented by a full-length halter neck dress featuring a gored skirt of Taiwanese border printed and sculptured velvet, with a matching red shawl collared jacket, and a purple waisted evening dress with a shantung silk gored skirt and silk marquisette sleeveless fitted bodice. Four layers of ruffles around the neckline create a cap sleeve effect and are balanced by a knee-to-floor deep ruffle on the skirt.