Auckland teen Natalia Donald is about to go to New Zealand Fashion Week for the first time - not just as a spectator but a designer whose silk showstopper will grace the runway at the pinnacle fashion event.

The 18-year-old is the youngest of 16 students from the New Zealand Institute of Fashion Technology, selected to open three shows at Fashion Week in late August.

Thousands of fashion-savvy eyes and hundreds of cameras will capture the moment, giving Natalia and the other designers an exciting career break.

"It's pretty exciting to be able to have so many opportunities so early," Natalia said.

Her sophisticated design features a fire-engine red silk bodice and pleated skirt, paired with a robe in the same colour.

It's the culmination of the 2017 Resene NZ Fashion Tech Colour of Fashion project, an education-meets-colour collaboration staged every year in the lead-up to Fashion Week.

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This year's project saw 36 diploma students from the fashion institution inspired by a brief that transported their imaginations to the fashion capitals of the world.

All 36 lengths of silk used for the project reflect a new Resene paint colour central to the student's design rationale. Natalia's colour was called "Smashing".

"I love [the colour]. My favourite colours are the primary colours, so red is definitely one of my faves."

Natalia made her design using silk in Resene's new colour 'Smashing'. Photo/Supplied
Natalia made her design using silk in Resene's new colour 'Smashing'. Photo/Supplied

Natalia's design was inspired by the neon-lit, busy streets of Tokyo and the many alleyways, which are home to undiscovered boutiques and daring outfits.

"And my mum. She is a really important part of my life and has always been really supportive. She has worked in op shops most of her life so I've been around that and fashion a lot," Natalia said.

The teen's fashion dream was to create unique, interesting outfits that aren't too expensive or high end.

In choosing the 16 students to show at Fashion Week, the judges, including Karen Warman from Resene, looked for colourful outfits "that shimmer and swish, and whisper secrets ... that refuse to bow to the convention of ordinary".

"Natalia has taken a very strong red and through clever design and a stunning fit on the bodice, has softened the colour and embraced its femininity. The 'swish and sway' as this outfit moves adds an extra dimension to the beautiful coloured fabric," Warman said.

Resene has supported this project for four years, to boost the careers of emerging New Zealand designers and promote the company's new paint colours by encouraging students to come up with bold designs to reflect those colours.

The judges will announce the winner a week before Fashion Week.