The Marr Factory designers on individuality

In the countdown to the Marr Factory spring-summer fashion shows, Viva asks the top designers taking part to share their views on one topic: individuality.

Helen Cherry; Karen Walker; Kate Sylvester. llustrations / Andrew Louis.
Helen Cherry; Karen Walker; Kate Sylvester. llustrations / Andrew Louis.

Helen Cherry

My mother always collected young people. She was a hairdresser - (that's a stylist these days) and had her own salons while I was growing up. When I look back it was a fascinating parade of purple polyester hot pants and paisley shirts (the staff uniform at the time). One family friend's daughter stood out to me as the epitome of cool - with her blond beehive, black eyeliner and thigh-high boots, smoking cigarettes and living her life to the sound of her Elvis Presley records - all on another level to the rest of the girls at the time.

Individuality just happened in that world, where it was incarnated over the kitchen table and, with a mother at the sewing machine, outfits would magically appear - like the pink corduroy minidress with a white lace bib and cuffs I wore with my Beatle boots ... and I guess that's how it begins. It led to shrinking my school blazer so it had a "look" like no other and later to trawling the op-shops during the polytech years in search of my version of punk.

And so it goes on. Sometimes it is that wunderkind who, every time you spot them, look like they are in their own movie, or it's the person who takes a more low-key approach - an extraordinary lift of colour or a particular pair of boots which changes everything about last year's outfit. Whatever take on individuality I see - at the extreme or at the more subtle end, it reminds me of all the possibilities and makes me smile.


Karen Walker

I was asked in an interview recently if I had a hero. I ended up with a list of dozens and could easily have kept going into the hundreds or even thousands if time and space had allowed. When I reviewed the list before sending it I realised that, though disparate in many ways, those listed all had one thing in common: they were all very much individuals. None of them was a runner with the pack. They all had unique points of view that separated them from those around them.

When you look at any person who has moved the world forward in some way, in any field, they must be, almost by definition, an individual. The world is not shifted by business as usual, it's shifted by new ideas. And new ideas don't tend to come from thinking like everyone else. In order to make a shift to the world around you, you have to be an individual, with an individual point of view.


Kate Sylvester

This is a diary entry that I wrote when I was 16.

Friday 28th October 1983
Individuality scares many people. To be an individual is to be alone.

If you are part of a stereotype you don't need to think for yourself, you need only assume the style, morals, ideas and actions, as dictated by the rest of the group.

My individuality is still being developed, I'm still unsure and timid of it. My mental and creative development is still in childhood - or adolescence (naturally, considering I'm only 16!)

I cannot yet express myself because I'm not fully developed. I can feel in my mind, vast areas still untapped but crying out to be used.

I have to fight every day against the urge to conform. I can see it would be so easy for me just to sidestep, just an inch and become one of the back combed, studded belt trendies.

But I thrive on my individuality. I cherish and cultivate it, am constantly striving to be Kate alone.

I've decided, or am formulating the theory that the most important thing a person must do in life is find her individuality.

I must learn what I truly like, hate, love, believe etc. When I find my identity I will love myself, I will have faith in myself.

I will be Kate.


Dayne Johnston - Zambesi; Elisabeth Findlay - Zambesi; Margi Robertson - NOM*D. llustrations / Andrew Louis.
Dayne Johnston - Zambesi; Elisabeth Findlay - Zambesi; Margi Robertson - NOM*D. llustrations / Andrew Louis.


Dayne Johnston - Zambesi

Individuality can be influenced by your surroundings: "I enjoy how a big city can inspire and influence your personal style." - Dayne Johnston.

I grew up in Wanaka in the South Island. It was a very beautiful place but I was always breaking my neck to get to the city. Things were quiet and I felt I needed the energy of a larger city. It gave me confidence to be in a bigger place and feel anonymous which, in turn, encouraged me to be an individual and independent. I didn't feel scared that people were judging me and I was always hungry for something new.

Wanaka was very isolated but I bought The Face magazine from the local newsagent and was always observing what was happening overseas. I remember going to Dunedin as a teenager and visiting Plume and witnessing the calibre of the labels they stocked and, on short trips to Auckland, walking into Zambesi and looking at the brands and being so influenced by something so foreign to me. Sometimes when you are in isolation it encourages good work.


Elisabeth Findlay - Zambesi

When I hear the phrase "individuality" I immediately think of the movie Wild at Heart starring Nicolas Cage expressing his individuality in his snakeskin jacket. I believe that individuality can be conveyed by the way you dress and of course that is a very obvious way to recognise it.

It can be so much more than just that.

Individuality intrigues me. It can be a subtle thing that attracts you, or something very obvious.

Not being afraid of taking a risk or a chance or standing alone and being true to yourself.

I am surrounded by individuality in my family and my work environment and it inspires me.

To quote my father: "never give up" illustrates to me the strength of individuality.


Margi Robertson - NOM*D

A person who has their very own unique style, never one who wishes to fit with mainstream or be considered conservative.

An outsider by nature rather than force. This person must be courageous because they may be thought of as weird or strange, but they are happy within themselves about what they portray.

Having individuality is not being afraid to be who you are, expressing yourself by the way you dress or perform and loving it!

People in my world who have a good dose of individuality and my absolute respect are Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen, for their nonconformist approach and belief in their personal style of music; Rei Kawakubo, and Panos Yiapanis for their contribution to an other-worldly side of fashion. These icons go beyond the boundaries of their genres and their visions are a constant inspiration to those outsiders who choose to follow them.


- VIVA

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