Whangārei fashion designer Shelly Matiu is stitching together a successful career with her passion for denim and the environment.

Matiu upcycles unwanted denim to recreate garments into modern dresses, fitted jackets, overalls and puffer vests under the label Ano - Anoagainreuse.

"There's so much denim that goes into landfill," she said.

"A lot of people these days shop at fast fashion places so brand new jeans are just $9, then they just end up at op shops, who can't sell them.


"People don't understand whatever we put into landfill won't break down. The less things that go to landfill the better."

Ano means "again" in te reo Māori.

Matiu's work, which has been described as a "slow, ethical and sustainable eco fashion label", also involves upcycling damaged furniture and creating cushions, table coasters and soft toy mats.

She has been selected to showcase her garments in the Eco Fashion Runway, part of this year's Hutt Winter Festival, which kicked off yesterday.

The fashion runway features 12 designer collections from around New Zealand, who fit the criteria of eco, ethical, upcycled, locally produced and/or New Zealand made.

The three-day festival is presented by Hutt City Council in partnership with The Dowse Foundation.

Matiu, who is from Ngāpuhi descent, originally lived in Wellington, before moving to Auckland to work on films, TV, and theatre as an audio engineer, boom operator and in the wardrobe department.

In 2000, she moved back to Whangārei where she did a brief stint at her friend's op shop turning the odd garment into upcycled garments for fun.


She moved back north last year and her passion for fashion has taken off. She was asked to present a small range at an Eco Journey event after a pair of jeans she had upcycled for herself was spotted by the event organiser.

Since then she was offered an ideal workspace and orders have started coming in.

Matiu, who has been sewing since the age of 8, sources her denim from various op shops and clothing swaps then sets about deconstructing them.

"Designing clothing has always fascinated me. I would see garments on TV and would make them myself.

"The garments are pieces of art someone can wear. And because they last a lifetime they can be passed on to people, which is what we used to do with garments."

Matiu said she's excited to be showcasing her collection in the upcoming fashion show.

Hutt City Council community arts and culture adviser Pippa Sanderson said 6000 people attended last year's festival, which also includes more than 20 workshops, a street party, talent quest and an art market.

"We can't wait to enliven the community through arts and culture, providing accessible, free or low-cost family friendly activities and entertainment," she said.

Matiu's range will also be on display at the Dargaville Wearable Arts event on September 13 and 14.