The runway event is a celebration of the 2022 graduating class’s collections. Katie Day, fashion journalist, talks with students about their work.
The audience, dimly lit and dressed in curious anticipation, sat side-by-side, framing the illuminated runway.
A clock’s countdown kept time, elevated upon projector screens above the catwalk, to herald the annual fashion show’s commencement.
There was a hum of support from beloved graduates and a sense of community.
The vibrant hum was tempered by a faint thread of trepidation, but celebration exceeded all expectations.
As the first model emerged, the track was accompanied by a rhythmic bass and reverberated through close-seated bodies.
It was followed by a display of second-year student design ideas. This established the explorative signature for the evening. Collective themes visible among the early designers’ work included oversized garments, natural fibres and textile explorations. The large, boxy silhouettes reflected the renegotiated space between garment and body. This was a reflection of the recent reorganization of work and home.
The strong sustainability ethos resonated among students and designers school through natural fibres like linens, chambray jeanss, and cottons. Second year students created clothes that were thoughtfully crafted using modern techniques such as embroidery, felting, print.
Colours were used to connect the first and second years of designs. They offer a subtle blend of 70s colours, including tans, creams, and soft chambrays. These are textured with nostalgic 90s plaids and blacks.
As the bass notes subsided, Otago Polytechnic’s Head of the College of Art, Design and Architecture, Frederico Freschi,offered gratitude for the event and community that contributed to such. He spoke about Otago Polytechnic’s 31-year-old fashion event and its significance as the last one to be held before the merger between the national polytechnics and Te Pukenga, creating technical institutes.
The fashion show will continue, there is no doubt. Freschi introduced the graduating third year cohort, which is tenacious and technically-minded fashion thinkers who began their fashion studies at the 2020. It was their night. It was a night to display their five graduate collections. Each collection is a culmination three years of innovative and adaptive thinking, combined with their ever-evolving technical skills.
The psyche of lockdown explorations was captured in many third-year collections, with notes of reimagined realities or worlds of escape. The collection ranged from streetwear that was inspired by gaming to more formal attire. Game of ThronesThere are many occasion-wear collections featuring corsets and referencing garments. Other collections were inspired by the tacit realities of the designers, and based upon reflections or critiques of contemporary society.
Graduate students Jess Long and Francesca Flynn discuss the meanings of collections.
Hagyatek, which means “inheritance” and “legacy”, refers to a ready-to wear collection of sustainable clothing that is inspired by Hungarian folkwear. The purpose of this collection was to draw more attention to traditional Hungarian garments and craftsmanship and to honour my Nana’s memory. This collection was designed to last, be sustainable, culturally relevant, and long-lasting. While I did want to modernise traditional folkwear in a way that would make it fashionable, I didn’t want to encroach on the original meanings and techniques used. This was achieved by keeping the headdresses and hand embroidery, which signify marital status, and adding some pleated skirts to the mix. These are key elements in Hungarian outfits.
Natural fibres like silk and cotton were dyed using natural dyes such iron, pomegranate, and madder root. As with everything I make, I tried to keep material waste to a minimum and create clothing that won’t harm the health of the wearer or the environment.
No matter their appearance, women are sexualized. Female empowerment is intrinsic to my practice, and the female friendships formed throughout my study have fostered my passion for feminism. Materials can be opaque or sheer to reflect the belief that women can wear whatever clothes they like. These garments can be made as modest or open as you wish. Crochet was an entirely new experience for me this year. I learned a lot from the process and had to engage in physical activities. My collection allows women to choose how they present themselves.
My graduate collection, “The Nature of Mercury”, details the transformation of a metamorphic creature to survive various perpetrators. How the minority adapts to survive the majority — by exploiting their features to blend in. These memories are stored in the subconscious and reflect the self.
Masking, or “social camouflage” gave way to my aesthetic inspiration — exploring modern concealment technology; artificial-intelligence, tactical camouflage, reflection, malformation, proportion, pattern and a complete obscurement of the form. I’ve prioritised a display of variety and abundance of skill, spanning wearability to avant-garde absurdism. From tailoring and dance wear to high concept material exploration.
“The Colonial Wedding”, is a collection that I created from my journey of whakapapa, reconnecting with my iwi Ngai Tahu and creating. This collection highlights the effects of colonialism on Aotearoa. Gazing through the lens of Christianity, to explore the reality of indoctrination and the explicit extermination of Maori culture — to the impact this has on Maori wahine today. As a designer, my process is focused on experimenting with textile manipulation and unconventional materials, implementing techniques such as laser cutting, etching, heat moulding and glasswork — to push the limits of the materiality of fashion.