Viva Next Gen: Meet The Designers Presenting At Our New Zealand Fashion Week 2023 Show

By Annabel Dickson
Taylah Kereama wears a Su`mar dress, styled by Dan Ahwa for Viva Magazine. Photo / Mara Sommer

They will be showing for the first time at the country’s foremost fashion event.

New Zealand Fashion Week makes a triumphant return from August 29-September 2, and Viva is delighted to present the Viva Next Gen Show as part of the official schedule.

Selected by New Zealand Fashion Week general manager Yasmin Farry, Viva editor Amanda Linnell, Viva fashion and creative director Dan Ahwa, fashion designer James Dobson of Jimmy D, costume designer and stylist Sammy Salsa and photographer Matt Hurley, the line-up of designers chosen offer a unique mix of perspectives that showcase plenty of potential.

Their time is now.

James Bush

The Wellington-based designer turns his focus to maximal minimalism.

A dance between structure and fluidity is how one could describe designer James Bush’s Pōneke-based label.

Born into a family of architects, James was destined for design. After finishing studies in Wellington, James travelled to Europe where he spent time honing his craft in Paris, Brussels and London. He completed his MA in menswear at the University of Westminster in London, and after gaining a place on the British Fashion Council’s prestigious graduate programme, launched his eponymous brand, James Bush, in 2021.

“I wanted to take that sophisticated European aesthetic and add in something distinctively New Zealand,” says James. “For me, that’s about freshness, modernity and ease, but also the fact that we celebrate women in positions of power. Those are the women I want to dress.”

James has grown into a label focusing on a combination of traditional women’s dress-making and English men’s tailoring. “Both of these factors are really just aesthetic languages that we’ve applied to gender. It’s a combination of hard and soft, tension and release. Increasingly, I’m looking at textile and sculptural shapes to add a further layer of depth.”

Nicole Hadfield of Oosterom

Her brand Oosterom, a meld of exuberance and tailoring, pays homage to her grandmother.

From machinist to production and now designer, Nicole Hadfield has held many hats in the fashion industry.

After graduating from Tāmaki’s highly regarded Whitecliffe College in 2014, Nicole’s fashion journey began in menswear design for label FRENCH83.

A three-year tenure as production manager at renowned New Zealand label Ingrid Starnes is where Nicole developed her love for a more hands-on fashion experience, such as sampling and pattern-making. But while working in the film industry as a machinist in 2020, those feelings shifted. Nicole felt it was time to break into the world of design on her own. Oosterom, a name which plays homage to Nicoles Oma, Pietje van Oosterom “She was a wizard on the sewing machine with a heart of gold” was born.

A drive to create considered clothing altered the way Nicole went about launching her brand. Its purpose would be to create garments with a sharp focus on construction and tailoring. Quality over quantity.

The goal for Oosterom is simple for Nicole: to be mindful of customers’ needs and the environment. “I am driven to create considered clothing that treads lightly on the planet,” she says of her predominantly made-to-order brand. “I make sure construction and fit are integral to each piece, ensuring they are cherished and worn with exuberant confidence.”

Sandra Tupu of Flying Fox Clothing

The menswear designer behind Flying Fox Clothing draws on fire, flora and metal.

Aside from a natural drive for creativity and design, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree for Sandra Tupu. Growing up in Pōneke, her mother and grandmother both had a knack for knitting and making clothing.

“I was lucky to be around all that talent and learn from such gifted mentors,” says the menswear designer. “This resourceful mindset has rubbed off on me, instilling a desire to create for others.”

Originally pursuing a career in technology and living between London and Melbourne, Sandra returned to New Zealand to raise a family in the late 80s. After making her children’s clothing along with her own for years, she eventually enrolled at Auckland University of Technology in 2009 and studied a bachelor of art and design in fashion, specialising in menswear.

Phillip Heketoa of Lipo

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

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.”

Nicole Van Vuuren

The designer, who counts singer Benee as a fan, creates beauty from scraps.

The phrase ‘waste not, want not’ is evident in Nicole Van Vuuren’s namesake label.

“My dad worked in a furniture factory and would bring home offcuts of leather and upholstery fabrics for me to use, and later he taught me to use the industrial machines in the workroom,” says the fashion designer. “I continued working with the textiles I sourced there in my first year of study at OP in Melbourne.”

There, Nicole came across a fabric warehouse, Rathdowne Remnants, where you can purchase fabric off-cuts, ones with footprints, markings, tears and frayed edges.

“Initially, I sourced there as a cheap way to find fabrics for school — between these and offcuts from internships, I could manage to afford to design garments. Eventually, I became obsessed with the odd shapes and signs of wear and tear embedded in the scraps, and eventually, this became a focal point for my graduate collection.”

Tess McCone of Su’mar

Expect a vibe of “whimsical dappled daydreams” from the designer at Fashion Week.

Transcending trends and creating clothes that exude both comfort and extravagance is what Tess McCone of label Su`mar is all about.

Launching in 2020 amid the chaos of lockdown, Su`mar was born with the intention to build a conscious fashion label focused on high-quality craftsmanship that challenged consumerism.

Locally produced in Tāmaki Makaurau as a one-woman show, timeless and versatile garments with a hint of fun are created on a pre-order and made-to-order basis, where finer details can be amended or added if desired.

“A focus on sustainability and artistic expression, Su`mar transcends trends to create timeless and versatile garments,” says Tess.

The Viva Next Gen Show takes place during New Zealand Fashion Week on Thursday 31st of August at 10am. Tickets are available here.

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