It's time to throw out the muted, neutral and just plain boring prints, and replace them with playful, bright and fun designs when it comes to children's clothing, says a Taranaki fashion designer.
Melissa Coull-Herewini, 25, says she wants to bring back the fun to children's clothing and to do this, has launched her children's clothing line, Douglas Kids.
Melissa, who works out of her studio in Midhirst, central Taranaki, says recent clothing trends have focused on natural and organic fibres. This, she says is great for the planet and sustainability, but has had the knock-on effect of making children's clothing muted and boring.
"Children's clothing is looking more like adult clothing. I thought to myself, 'where is the fun in the clothes?'. You can still use natural fibres and be environmentally conscious while having fun."
The parent brand, Douglas, was started by Melissa and her sister, Tia.
"It is a dedication to our late father as it was his middle name. It is also the place where we got our first sewing machine from. Douglas is all about inclusivity for everyone and kids fall under that umbrella."
She says her love of fashion started in her childhood.
"I would buy every magazine. The funny thing is, I wasn't a good sewer but once I took fabric technology at Stratford High School, I fell in love with sewing. I could spend all day sewing."
Douglas Kids is a family effort, she says.
"My sister Nikki helps with the business side of things, Tia helps with social media and is working on the website. My mum Kerryn helps with the hand knitting and my grandparents have provided a space for my studio. I'm so thankful for all the support.
"Nikki's daughter Emmerson [8 months old] always gets to try on the previews to make sure they're the right size."
Melissa says she wants to be environmentally friendly and support local as much as she can.
"I work with natural fibres. Unfortunately, fabrics aren't made here so they have to be imported to New Zealand but where I can, I always support local businesses."
Most of the fabrics for her first launch are from Manaia.
"I buy my buttons from a shop in New Plymouth, and I get my wool from an alpaca farm in Tauramanui. I also find New Zealand wholesale fabric stores which import fabrics for people to use.
"It's important to use the natural fibres as they are sustainable and also more kid-friendly. Natural fibres are more sustainable and anything that is natural is better for your body, more breathable and of a better quality."
She says she uses every piece of fabric possible.
"The scraps from making a piece of clothing can go towards making a head band or another accessory and the tiny bits of fabric left over go into the compost as they break down naturally."
Melissa graduated from Otago Polytech in 2018, with a bachelor of design majoring in fashion.
"It was the best decision I ever made. I initially set out to study law but I changed. I'm so glad I did. It was a lot of hard work but it's paid off. I still adore my teachers and lecturers to this day.
"Otago gave me the freedom I needed and having that freedom was how I discovered my love for avant-garde fashion."
Melissa says she is excited to make children's clothes.
"Making children's clothing fits my aesthetic of avant-garde. The clothes don't have to be form fitting and they can flow or have frills. It fits with my aesthetic really well."
In 2019, Melissa showed her graduate collection, She's got RIC at New Zealand Fashion Week.
"It was an amazing opportunity. After Fashion Week though, I lost sight of what I was passionate about for a while, as I worked to pay the bills."
To reignite her passion, Melissa says she decided to move to Christchurch at the start of the year, to look for a job in the fashion industry, whether it was in retail or becoming a designer.
"Covid-19 had other plans for me. I spent lockdown in Christchurch with my sister Nikki and her family."
Melissa has predominantly made womenswear but the shift to children clothing happened while she was in lockdown.
Spending lockdown surrounded by pattern books and a willing model in her neice Emmerson, she started to make children's clothing.
"I began to see a hole in the children's clothing industry, there was no fun in the clothes."
After the lockdown, Melissa moved back to Midhirst with clear plans to start a children's clothing line.
"As soon as I arrived I cleaned out my studio and got to work. I spent a month making patterns."
She says it is important to her to connect with the community. Moving back to her hometown was something Melissa says was important.
"It is more personal for the buyer if they know who is designing and making the clothes. I want to build connections and keep local. It feels more natural being at home and making for local people."
She says one garment can take over an hour to construct.
"I make clothing from 5 months all the way up to five years. That's seven different clothing sizes."
She says a focus for her is making sure her garment has a long life.
"I make the best quality seams and finishings to ensure it lasts forever. Buying a piece of clothing is an investment and once finished with it, you can give it to someone else. The cycle of fashion is very important to me and I want to make sure a garment lasts forever."
She says her first clothing drop will feature clothes, beanies, headbands and teething rings.
Melissa is holding a launch evening on August 28 before launching her collection online on September 1.
Melissa says up to date information about her launch evening will be posted on the Douglas Kids Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Douglaskidsnz