Dressed in his chunky red shoes, denim jacket and baggy pants, Liam Julian-Hunapo, 18, is far from the typical image of a slick fashionista.

But despite being the youngest in his class the Auckland student is one of 10 to be given a break on the stage at New Zealand Fashion Week in August.

His garment, a silk black and red hooded two-piece, will be one of those featuring at the opening of the Resene Designer Runway for four days at the prestigious fashion event.

The keen fashion student said it "felt good" to be one of the chosen few. "You'll get real good exposure."


For the project close to 20 students, from Wellington and Auckland, had to choose one from a range of saris and transform it into a runway-ready garment, which they paraded in front of a judging panel yesterday.

Rather than choose one of the more vibrant shades, the Mr Julian-Hunapo chose a "gumboot" black and created a fashionable take on the classic Swanndri and stubbies, with a touch of red lining the pockets and the interior of the hood.

The teen has come a long way from his years as a "kind of lost" kid who rebelled against the more traditional subjects, such as geography, maths and science, and the confines of the classroom.

He said he regularly skipped school and got up to some mischief with his mates before he was eventually kicked out in Year 12.

Having been given his first taste of fashion through one of his Massey High School teachers, he decided to take this further and enrolled in the Diploma in Fashion technology at 16.

"If I never got kicked out, I'd still be in school not knowing what to do," he said.

"I just realised you can't just muck around any more ... it's up to you if you are going to make something of yourself or not."

NZ Fashion Tech tutor Susan Barter said he'd grown in confidence since starting. She believed Mr Julian-Hunapo, who is in his last year, had the potential to go far in fashion.

"He has a natural ability and gift - he has a lovely, cheeky charm and is really keen to work."

The teenager is also one of seven heading off to India this month for six weeks for a course at the Bannari Amman Institute of Technology.