Project Runway New Zealand starts tonight and Napier's Misty Ratima and Central Hawke's Bay's Nicole Schmidt will be two of the stars.

The two women put their skills to the test on the inaugural season of the reality TV show for fashion designers.

Ratima says she had the time of her life.

"I know why, it's because this was the very first time in my life I could stay focused on fashion design, which is something I've never been allowed to do.


"And second of all be surrounded by creatives who love the same thing, that was an added bonus."

Schmidt has previously completed a Diploma in Fashion Design at Massey University.

She mainly designs lingerie, a love she discovered after university.

"I didn't quite set out to be a lingerie designer, I just sort of became that way.

"I went on a journey of trying to discover what my style was, sort of a couple of years after university."

Her work incorporates embellishments like lockets, keys, charms and studs, which you can see in her label Forgotten Lockett.

She had partly taught herself to sew, but had also completed her fashion design degree, saying the experience was the best few years of her life.

"[Lingerie designing] stuck and it made more and more sense a couple of years into the brand."


Both women said they discovered a love of fashion young.

"You know how some people just know what they want to do at a really young age," Schmidt said.

Ratima said her inspiration is her mother and grandmother.

"She (her mother) taught me that fashion does not need to be expensive."

"My grandmother was always really busy in the community, within cultural meetings, and she was quite strong in the church as well, but whatever she did she was always well dressed."

She likes to design clothes which turn the traditional, curvy, silhouette of a woman on its head.

"It takes away the element of a woman, being perceived as sexy only because of the things she wears, rather than because of the things that she says, and rather than the things that she thinks,"

Her fashion line is called TE KOHU, the Māori translation of her name Misty, and has already attracted some big names. Singer Anika Moa messaged her on Instagram to buy a jumpsuit.

"I was running around the house beaming, like, oh my god, she likes the jumpsuit!"

"I would have given it to her free, but she's so cool, obviously she's cool enough to support local designers and local artists anywhere, so she was like, don't be stupid."

Both Ratima and Schmidt applied for Project Runway after seeing the ad online.

"As much as it scared the s*** out of me, there was no way I was not going to apply," Ratima said.

"I had a feeling, you know how you get that feeling of like, butterflies or something, that you know something is happening but you sort of talk yourself down," Schmidt said.

Project Runway starts tonight on TVNZ2 at 7.30.

You can check out Ratima and Schmidt's labels on instagram at tekohu_mistyratima and forgotten.lockett.