My Style: Jewellery Designer Dylan Mulder Is Bringing The Digital World To Fashion

By Annabel Dickson
Photo / Mark Tantrum

Developing a global sense of self is how Dylan Mulder, of his namesake label Mulder, describes himself and his work. From dressing Dame Jacinda Ardern to augmenting reality, he proves style has no boundaries. And with his work in a not-to-be-missed pop-up in Tāmaki Makaurau, he tells Viva what inspires him.

Dylan Mulder, a Dutch and Ngāti Maniapoto Mosgiel native who now resides in Tāmaki Makaurau’s Freemans Bay, has spent most of his life travelling the world to discover all that it has to offer creatively. He has also pursued an industrial design degree after turning down three engineering programme offers.

“I have always been heavily creative and highly intuitive. I chose to pursue an industrial design degree as it felt intuitively right. This decision has been one of the best choices I made for my career and my true calling.”

That true calling led Dylan to develop an extensive portfolio and career in 3D design, props, and costume. “From my initial beginnings in the film industry here in New Zealand to working at Cirque du Soleil as a design consultant and costume designer, I eventually shifted into the metaverse industry, where I develop digital wearables.”

Digitally Grown by Dylan Mulder is worn by Jacinda Ardern, then prime minister, during the 2022 World of WearableArt Awards. Photo / Getty Images
Digitally Grown by Dylan Mulder is worn by Jacinda Ardern, then prime minister, during the 2022 World of WearableArt Awards. Photo / Getty Images

Notable clients and companies that have enlisted Dylan to create works of art include Disney and Netflix, and he has made custom-fit costumes for celebrities in the New York and LA fashion and film scenes. He has also won multiple awards locally at the cultural and fashion festival World of WearableArt in Pōneke, where Dame Jacinda Ardern wore a digitally grown cloak in 2019 designed using generative AI. Dylan has also been a guest judge for the Mindful Fashion Awards, supporting full-circle and sustainable fashion practices.

With an resume successfully blending costume and digital creative work with the fashion industry, Dylan is now embarking on a new venture with his bespoke jewellery brand, Mulder, grown through generative AI. “It’s a fresh take on what jewellery can be in the future, utilising AR [augmented reality] to display virtual representations through Instagram filters.”

Until June 22, Mulder is part of the Oyster & Moon pop-up shop at Spacefor in Auckland’s Britomart – a physical extension of the online store, which operates as part of Oyster Workshop, an ecosystem of creatives and entrepreneurs that’s driven and owned by Pacific women.

“Mulder is a brand that sits at the intersection of art, science, nature, and indigenous wisdom,” Dylan says. “It is dedicated to transforming digital creativity into tangible, bespoke products, blending innovation and culture with the essence of organic design.”

With a wealth of talent and knowledge of the fashion industry locally and afar, we spoke to Dylan about his personal style and where he draws his creative inspiration from.

Rings made by Dylan Mulder will be on display at the Oyster & Moon pop-up in Britomart until June 22.
Rings made by Dylan Mulder will be on display at the Oyster & Moon pop-up in Britomart until June 22.

Describe your personal style.

I sat on this question for a bit, trying to come up with some fancy description, but honestly, I’m just a dude that follows his nose and uses common sense. Some days, it’s about feeling a sense of belonging to a community. Other days, it’s about how I want to be individually acknowledged. I see this as a spectrum, and my position on it changes daily. My wardrobe is a mix of practical and fashionable, drawing influences from various cultures and trends I’ve encountered over the years through my travels. I tend to lean towards dressing tidier and presentable on the average day, opting for clean, correctly fitting clothes. One or two rings are a common accessory, which is an easy way to show character or mood.

What influences your fashion sense?

Simply put, the context or environment I’m in generally informs the fashion I’ll wear. I learned this from a young age and became smart about understanding that each environment has its own fashion culture. What’s cool in one place may be incredibly uncool in another. I experienced this firsthand when I moved from Australia to Switzerland, going from skateboarder/emo fashion to tracksuit and blond tips overnight. After my first day of school, I got my mum to dye my hair because experience proved it made it easier to fit in and make friends quickly. I had to adapt rapidly to each new environment.

Ultimately, it taught me that there’s no right or wrong in fashion, just context. Eventually, I grew tired of always adapting and folded in my own sense. I wear a lot of flannel, jeans, and boots thanks to my time in Canada. I love the jandals and board shorts from 12 years in Australia. University days studying design taught me a love for black – black everything. Remember the whole drop-crotch phase?

A  second-hand denim jacket that Dylan retrofitted with an Augmented Reality overlay.
A second-hand denim jacket that Dylan retrofitted with an Augmented Reality overlay.

What’s your favourite item of clothing?

My favourite item of clothing is a simple second-hand denim jacket that I retrofitted with an augmented reality overlay. When viewed from an Instagram filter, it plays music and has 3D pop-outs, making the garment partially digital. I love this jacket because I managed to take something old and coined the phrase “Wear the Past in the Future”, where I can take an old unwanted jacket and reinvigorate it back into the 2020s. It’s probably the most futuristic jacket I’ve ever seen yet. It evokes brilliant conversation around sustainability and recycling on a whole new level, and I intend to make more bespoke versions of these for purchase. You can see it in action on my Instagram

I love good quality boots, especially some of the high-top boots from Merchant 1948. They’ve lasted me for many years. Chuck Taylors are also a versatile staple that you can easily dress up or down.

How do you put a look together?

I only really think about putting an outfit together the night before if I’m travelling overseas, or getting ready for an interview or wedding the next day. I tend to go with my intuition and mood for everyday dressing. Despite having plenty of clothes, I often find myself wearing the same select range of outfits.

What comes first, accessories or clothes?

I’ve always appreciated accessories. They can instantly dress up or dress down a look. I think guys can definitely wear more jewellery. Just one or two items can do the trick and show that you take pride in yourself and your presentation to others.

Who do you dress for?

I dress mainly for myself, as a way to express who I am and to feel comfortable and confident. I also consider the context I’ll be in for the day and aim to be respectful and appropriate. I acknowledge that it’s human nature for people to judge each other based on appearance. I don’t see this as either good or bad, but rather a reality of the fast-paced life in a major city such as Auckland.

Do you talk about clothes and what to wear with friends or family?

I laughed at this question; I often took mates shopping, as many didn’t understand basics like correctly fitting jeans. I feel our fashion sense was often educated by our mothers, who probably bought two sizes larger so we grew into it. I’ve lost count of how many mates would wear jeans that were too big and fold them over to fit them with a belt.

I can lean into my girlfriend Juliette’s opinion. We’ve designed several World of WearableArt garments together recently, so I trust her design eye.

What was your relationship with fashion growing up?

My Ngāti Maniapoto heritage is rich in traditional weaving, and I am continually exploring my connection to this side and its kaupapa. It has helped me give context to my work, but also integrate it with very modern design technology, to make it my own. This blend of tradition and innovation enriches my understanding of self which you can see in my works.

Both my brother and sister modelled for fashion shows, so I have memories of going to quite a few events. My sister’s partner at the time was a prominent New Zealand fashion designer, and I respected his talent and flair for cool things, music, and lifestyle. It was inspiring and I think formative for me.

Dylan's favourite pair of Merchant 1948 boots.
Dylan's favourite pair of Merchant 1948 boots.

What’s one of your earliest fashion memories?

Two early memories come to mind. Firstly, the fashion in the movie Back to the Future II was my kinda thing. Self-lacing shoes, and self-adjusting jackets made so much sense to me. I believe it influenced some of the thinking and technological integrations I fold into my work today.

Secondly, as a kid coming from New Zealand and living in Holland, I was fascinated by clogs. The concept of shoes made of wood intrigued me. I quickly learned about the cultural value behind fashion versus comfort, and how it can change the way a person walks, is perceived, and even sounds.

How has your relationship to fashion changed since your teenage years?

My relationship with fashion has evolved significantly since my teenage years. Culture and identity have always been central themes in my life, given my unique blend of Dutch and Māori heritage. The experience of living in different countries every couple years as a teenager was challenging but formative. Fashion became a significant avenue for exploring, expressing and shaping my identity.

Today, I create my own jewellery as a means of self-representation and as a celebration of the beauty that arises from the fusion of two seemingly contrasting cultures. I have a real ownership of it now, and it even surprises me what I come up with. This concept is evident throughout my costume and artwork, and I believe it resonates with many.

What’s one item of clothing you’ve kept since you were a teenager? And one you regret getting rid of?

Sadly, due to frequent relocations between countries during my teenage years, I had to part with most of my possessions, including clothing. However, I saw this as an opportunity to start anew and reinvent myself based on my learnings from my travels. This experience made me adaptable to different people, cultures, and environments, almost like a social chameleon. While I may not possess physical childhood artefacts, I believe I have incorporated their memories into my character.

What piece of clothing have you inherited that’s particularly special to you?

Perhaps not inherited, but admire, are some shoes I worked on with Converse creating this limited edition DRKSHDW x Rick Owen’s shoe in AR that you could digitally wear.

The limited edition DRKSHDW x Rick Owen’s Converse shoe designed by Dylan.
The limited edition DRKSHDW x Rick Owen’s Converse shoe designed by Dylan.

What item in your wardrobe have you worn to death?

I have one pair of black jeans that I love the fit of. They have rips in the rear, but if I wear black boxers you can’t really tell, in my opinion. They just fit right. I tried to find replacements of the same cut but they just don’t exist anymore. In fact, the new styles seem worse! No thanks.

What item should you wear more but don’t?

I have a few suits I bought with a vision, but they seem to be better at collecting dust in my wardrobe.

Where do you love to shop?

To throw in a wildcard, I loved searching through stores in Harajuku, a district in Japan. The imagination and candidness of colour use, and slogans was fun and refreshing. There’s this fascinating style called Tech Wear, which I like a lot – but I feel like it’s almost an art form through the photography of it. Op shops are growing on me, as each time I go, I seem to find “exactly what I’ve always been looking for”.

Who are your favourite designers?

Iris van Herpen is a favourite, as she pushes technology merged with fashion in ways that I naturally think similar to. Innovation displayed through fashion is my thrill.

What item/s are on your wish list right now?

Nike Mag self-lacing shoes from Back to the Future II. More as a collectible than to wear.

Weaving a Kakahu by Diggeress Rangituatahi Te Kanawa. Supplied by Dylan Mulder
Weaving a Kakahu by Diggeress Rangituatahi Te Kanawa. Supplied by Dylan Mulder

Favourite book or reading material?

Weaving a Kakahu by Diggeress Rangituatahi Te Kanawa. This is from my family iwi as they pass down the weaving knowledge for many generations.

What do you find challenging or frustrating about shopping, clothes or fashion?

Shipping times to New Zealand are a big one. You have to commit and plan ahead, take a risk on the size you think you are, or purchase two sizes to cover the variance.

I would love to see and am an advocate for a future system where people can have a virtual avatar that accurately represents their body type. This avatar could be used to try on clothes digitally, helping to see how different brands’ sizes and cuts would fit. While it might not be perfect, it would reduce the guesswork and improve the accuracy of online shopping.

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