Tim Allan

tim-allanPassionata would like to thank Arran and Gordon Reardon and family for Tim’s archives and the wonderful gowns, sketches and miniature dresses, and primarily for allowing us to share Tim’s amazing story.

Click the images in the story to enlarge


The Early Years – 1959

Compiled from two 1959 newspaper articles

Pink dress by Tim AllanWhen a fashion parade was organised in the Civic Theatre earlier this month [1959] for the wives of the municipal officers who were in Christchurch for their conference, one of the most interesting items in the collection was a pink duchesse satin court gown.

Pride of place must go to a creation by 18 year old Christchurch designer, Tim Allan. Of pink delustred satin in a most delicate blush shade, the skirt formed of eleven panels, featured two double inverted pleats caught in with two self pink bows at knee height. The back of the skirt formed the new “peacock” line. A plain strapless bodice showed the elegant skirt to great advantage. Forty thousand crystal beads, centred with large diamantes, had been hand embroidered by the designer in a delicate tracery of cobwebs and ferns. A full length circular cloak of the same gorgeous material and embroidered in the same pattern, completed one of the most outstanding models ever seen.

As a hobby Tim created three plasticine models about two feet high of The QueenPrincess Margaret and the Duchess of Kent. On them he reproduced the gowns they wore publicly and made their jewellery himself and for the Queen’s Coronation gown, even the regalia that went with it.

A colour picture was taken of these figures and sent to Sandringham and Tim was very proud of the letter he received in reply from the Queen’s lady in waiting.

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Tim left for England to further his studies and took a course in fashion sketching as well as working in a clothing factory.

Hartnell, the Queen’s designer, was interested in Tim and promised to send him an invitation to one of his showings and has said he would like to meet the young New Zealander.


The Later Years

Benson & Hedges Nomination 1988

From the After-Five nominations comes a dramatic evening gown from Tim Allan of Auckland. The pale grey paper taffeta and coral shot taffeta gown bares one shoulder and froths with fabric on the other. The designer made the grey gloves.

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From a newspaper article January 1990:

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NZ Herald Style cover

Tim Allan is exactly the sort of person one would feel confident turning to in a clothing crisis. It’s obvious that he loves his work, and intuitively knows what’s required at any social occasion. He admits that he has a lot of fun with his clients – “though I can be rude”. Well, not rude exactly, but I’m honest. I’ll tell someone if the design they have in mind is totally wrong and I’ll offer advice on hair, shoes, jewellery. A total look is very important and most women expect this kind of service from a designer.

“My objective is to have every client leaving my shop looking and feeling like a million dollars.”

Tim believes the cocktail party the hardest event to dress for and the one that most get wrong.

“Being neither day nor evening, many women are uncertain as to what to wear, opting either for something that’s too casual or too formal.”

Tim recommends either a smart well-accessoried suit or a dress with matching jacket. He shows me such an outfit in the window – a stunning black silk taffeta dress with sweetheart neckline, very full skirt and matching jacket.

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Cover of More magazine

“The combination is ideal. With the jacket on it’s extremely smart cocktail wear. If you’re heading out for dinner later, as most do, simply whip off the jacket and you have a stunning evening dress. The jacket of course can be worn with other clothing, so you get more wear from this than you would from just a dress.

The dress is $895, the jacket $500, prices Tim cites as average for his cocktail wear, although the more fabric and work that go into a garment the greater the price.

Evening wear, which many consider to be Tim Allan’s specialty, is more expensive, ranging from $1200 upwards.

Tim recalls what he considers to be one of his more extravagant garments – a wedding dress he made for a Melbourne bride six years ago. An elaborate creation in pure silk taffeta, it took 28m of fabric and three months to make owing to the extensive hand beading that was required for the finish. The cost then was $A4,000.

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Hilary Timmins in her Tim Allan wedding dress

I’m aware that my clothing costs a lot of money, but people pay for what they get. One of my dresses will last for years and years because it’s finished perfectly. I won’t take any shortcuts on quality of fabric, the fit or cut and I do everything myself.

This is rare. Most designers tend to prepare an original design then hand it over to others to cut and sew. Tim, however, does the lot, enabling him to fully control quality and make immediate adjustments when time is at a premium.

Tim’s creations are frequently worn by our television hostesses both on and off screen. He provides dresses for It’s in the BagBlind Date and Lotto and also outfits for Judy BaileyIllona Rodgers and Angela D’Audney in gowns that have earned him a reputation for glamorous, eye-catching and often over-the-top designs.”

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Angela D’Audney, Hilary Timmins and Ilona Rodgers wearing Tim Allan


From a newspaper article October 1991:

kiriA gown designed locally for a world-famous diva will be seen by millions at next year’s Expo but will be missing from an Auckland designer’s parade tomorrow.

The creation is hanging in the owner’s wardrobe in England. [Note: this gown is now at Te Papa]. The designer is Tim Allan, of Auckland and his famous client is Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

The opera singer, who has just finished a season of La Bohème in Auckland, asked the Parnell designer to make a gown for her to wear in a mini opera used to showcase New Zealand at Expo ’92 in Seville, Spain.

Allan, known for his dramatic and colourful evening gowns, lived up to his reputation for Dame Kiri’s gown. The navy Thai silk creation has a hand-ruched and hand-beaded strapless, off the shoulder bodice in orange, shocking pink and lime-green silk. The overskirt is lined with wide bands of the vibrant colours. It took Tim and an assistant 100 hours to bead the ruched top.

Allan has 30 other cocktail and evening outfits to show at his lunchtime parade at the Pan Pacific Hotel tomorrow.

He is the first male designer to be invited by model agency director Doreen Morrison to join the “meet the designer” parades at the hotel on the second Wednesday of each month.

Tickets for Allan’s parade sold out so quickly he will repeat the show for the November 13 parade.

This talented designer has been involved in the world of fashion since leaving school in the late 1950’s. He trained with several clothing companies in Auckland and Christchurch and during a two year stint in London worked for John Cavanagh, who listed among his clients members of the royal family. Cavanagh made Princess Alexandra’s and the Duchess of Kent’s wedding gowns.

shop_signSeeking a change, Allan worked as an interior designed for 12 years in Auckland and Melbourne, but he could not keep away from the sewing machine. He made clothes for private clients in his spare time then opened a boutique in Melbourne.

Returning to New Zealand five years ago, Allan opened a salon in Parnelland quickly made an impression with Auckland’s social set.

When 17 year old Aucklander Nicola Dean left for Tokyo last week to compete in the world Miss International competition she took a wardrobe designed by Tim Allan.


Tim finds his family

Compiled from Christchurch Star article August 1990, and NZ Herald August 1990

Adopted Son finds his roots – 48 years on

Marjorie Cole was 14 and Alexander Haftka 16 when they met. A year later, when Marjorie had to confess that she was pregnant, their families separated them.

By then Alexander was in the Army and posted to Palmerston North. He made Majorie a promise “I will be back he vowed, and we will get married some day”.

One June 21, 1942 Marjorie Cole was rushed to hospital. “An appendicitis” the neighbours were told.

Later that night she gave birth to a tiny boy weighing just 1.6kg and two and half months premature. She never did see him again.

Tim Allan (centre) with his parents and brothers. From left: Garry, Alex, Marjorie and Kevin Haftka

Tim Allan (centre) with his parents and brothers. From left: Garry, Alex, Marjorie and Kevin Haftka

Forty-five years later when the Adult Adoption Information Act was passed, Tim Allan, a successful designer applied for a copy of his original birth certificate. Three years later he felt emotionally ready to search.

Marjorie at the age of 20 had married her sweetheart Alexander John Haftka.

Tim Allan drank six cups of coffee and smoked five cigarettes, and then he phoned Marjorie. He asked “what about my father”, Majorie replied “he’s here, would you like to speak to him?

Tim Allan did not have a particularly happy childhood. His adoptive mother had died when he was five and he was “farmed out” for nearly three years to various relatives.

He did not discover he was adopted until he was 13 and the fact was thrown at him, without warning at the height of a family argument.

“I felt I didn’t belong and didn’t really know why. I had no idea of my real circumstances or my background.”

But at Wellington airport on June 16, 1990 Allan, doing all the things he had determined he wouldn’t do, laughing and crying and getting the shakes, finally came down to earth.

He found his family and he says, “Found at last what I was all about”.

Sadly, Tim lost his battle with AIDS on 18th April 1997, aged 54.


Passionata’s Tim Allan collection

Click to enlarge these thumbnails. If you are interested in any of these garments, please contact Shannon who will arrange a viewing.