A 23-year-old fashion designer from Te Awamutu is making waves on the national runway.

Sophie Ward last week showcased nine outfits at New Zealand Fashion Week.

Founded in 2001 by Dame Pieter Stewart, Fashion Week is a platform for local and international designers to showcase and promote their collections and brand.

Models walk the runway during the Sophie Joy Collections show during New Zealand Fashion Week. Photo / Getty Images
Models walk the runway during the Sophie Joy Collections show during New Zealand Fashion Week. Photo / Getty Images

Sophie was invited to feature her work in the new generation section of the event.

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It was a dream come true for Sophie, who has aspired to become a fashion designer ever since she was a Year 10 student at Te Awamutu College taking soft materials technology as a subject.

Sophie — who also attended Puahue School and Te Awamutu Intermediate — remembers experimenting with clothes growing up.

"I look back and think, 'I can't believe I wore that'. But now realise it was a good platform for trying new things."

Te Awamutu College student Sophie Ward works on the sleeves for her ReStyle entry in 2013. Photo / Cathy Asplin
Te Awamutu College student Sophie Ward works on the sleeves for her ReStyle entry in 2013. Photo / Cathy Asplin

After finishing at Te Awamutu College, Sophie moved to Wellington where she has this year graduated from a Bachelor of Design with Honours, majoring in fashion design, from Massey University.

She is now turning her attention to developing her brand and opening an online store, and possibly designing menswear.

Sophie operates under the label name Sophie Joy, describing the women's clothing range as luxurious, high fashion.

"It's all about indulging in luxurious textures while keeping the sense of comfort in mind," she says.

"I want the wearer to feel chic, yet comfortable."

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Sophie Ward (centre), pictured with models showcasing her collection at New Zealand Fashion Week. Photo / Tia Woodley
Sophie Ward (centre), pictured with models showcasing her collection at New Zealand Fashion Week. Photo / Tia Woodley

Sophie says her creative process starts with sourcing fabric.

"I gravitate towards fabric that feels nice and then I develop a story around it," she says.

Sophie's story around her latest collection is a personal one — a dedication to her mother, Te Awamutu woman Wendy Ward, who died in 2017.

She drew inspiration from Wendy's favourite colour, pink, and her favourite flowers.

The use of the colour green symbolises the growth Sophie says she experienced through grief.

The resulting collection is feminine, luxurious, comfortable and timeless.

Sophie says the experience of showcasing work at Fashion Week was a "whirlwind".

"I hadn't slept in two days and was running off adrenaline. But it was amazing to finally step back and see everything I'd worked so hard on come together."

It's not the first time Sophie has had creations on the runway, having previously won awards at ReStyle, a fashion event in Hamilton, and at Fieldays' Ag Art Wear competition.

She also had work feature in the Hokonui Fashion Design Awards last year.

Check out Sophie's work at www.sophiejoydesign.org.