Style Liaisons With Viva Next Gen Designer Phillip Heketoa

By Annabel Dickson
“I have a notebook I take to work where I play with ideas, and a notebook by my bed for when I wake up,” says Phillip Heketoa of fashion label Lipo. Photo / Michael Craig

Phillip Heketoa has come full circle in the fashion industry.

Having a background in beauty, where he tutored special effects makeup and hair artistry at the Cut Above academy for 18 years, he is no stranger to the creative world.

After leaving the beauty industry in 2020 to upskill and focus on fashion design, he attended Whitecliffe College.

A professed self-taught patternmaker, Phillip launched his namesake label Lipo in 2022 and, like many young designers, manages the precarious balancing act of multiple roles.

“I’m a night-shift worker, so my days are short,” says Phillip, “I have a notebook I take to work where I play with ideas, and a notebook by my bed for when I wake up. Everything is still new and exciting for me as I am learning from each project, garment and inspiration. Yes, I have still a lot to learn, but for as long as I can remember, I have always been creative. It’s my happy place.”

Lipo's designs were featured at the Pacific Fusion Fashion Show. Photo / Supplied.
Lipo's designs were featured at the Pacific Fusion Fashion Show. Photo / Supplied.

What, in your opinion, makes style?

Being comfortable in being and feeling yourself.

Describe your personal style and what you wear when you want to feel your best.

My style now is oversized and comfortable, and when I’m feeling my best I wear one of my favourite colognes by Viktor & Rolf or Issey Miyaki.

Tell us about a piece of clothing or item you have inherited that’s particularly special to you.

I’ve never inherited any clothing but I have been given clothing from my Nan, mum and grandpa that mean a lot to me.

Tell us about your earliest fashion memory.

My first fashion memory, I think, was when I was 10 or 11, and I made my first dress with tassels. I ripped the lower half in strips to create ‘tassels’ and hid it under my mattress. I don’t remember what happened to it though.

My mum and aunts have great personal style and have inspired me greatly throughout the years.

What has been the most rewarding thing about creating a label, and what has been the biggest challenge?

There are lots of good reasons for me to start Lipo later in life, but a big rewarding one has definitely been knowing nothing is ever too late. The biggest challenge right now is not yet having the finances to build my label but I am happy with baby steps.

There are a lot of challenges ahead for designers, from navigating the post-Covid world to working towards sustainability. Is there anything that you hope will emerge creatively from this time?

I hope creatively New Zealand Fashion Week continues this amazing support for growth, awareness for sustainability, and culture for future designers big and small.

What inspired you to start a label later in life?

When I started my student design journey in 2020, I wanted to eventually go into costume and wardrobe for TV and film. The journey had evolved and I had been given opportunities and chances to take on myself that have been full of blessings, lessons and growth and have led me to the present.

I have always loved fashion and have been involved with clothing or surrounded by it in some way. It also feels good to do something I really enjoy and share it, that part is terrifying and I’m not yet used to it.

I’m also a believer (and an example) that it isn’t too late to start over.

What closeness do your label and designs have to your heritage? And how important is it to showcase through your designs?

It’s a huge honour and really exciting for me to share a little of who I am as a Polynesian coming from a huge Polynesian community full of talented and creative beings. Fakaaue lahi.

What can we expect to see from you in the Viva Next Gen show at NZFW 2023?

Bold. Feminine. Strong. With each collection, I’m sharing a little more of who I am and the designer that I am still becoming.

2 Quick Questions

Favourite drink?

Heineken, or anything with gin.

Dream holiday destination?

I’d love to do a mini tour of some of the Pacific Islands.

Share this article: