November 29, 2022

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One of George Park’s garments is modelled at the annual Student Showcase Fashion Show in the Hub...

One of George Park’s garments is modelled at the annual Student Showcase Fashion Show in the Hub last Friday night. Photos: Peter McIntosh

This year marked the 31st annual Otago Polytechnic graduate fashion show, COLLECTIONS.
The runway event is a celebration of the 2022 graduating class’s collections. Fashion writer Katie Day talks to students about their work.

The dimly-lit audience, dressed with looks of curious anticipation, sat side by side, framing an illuminated runway.
A clock’s countdown kept time, elevated upon projector screens above the catwalk, to herald the annual fashion show’s commencement.
The atmosphere hummed with eager support of beloved graduates, while an awareness of the meaning and risk involved in gathering as a community lingered.
A faint thread of trepidation tempered the vibrant hum, though caution was exceeded by celebration.
A rhythmic bass-led track reverberated through closely seated bodies, as the first model stepped out, traversing the runway with musicality.

Jess Long’s collection.

Jess Long’s collection.

A display of first and second year student design ideations ensued, establishing the explorative signature of the night. Collective themes visible among the early designers’ work included oversized garments, natural fibres and textile explorations. The oversized, boxy silhouettes spoke to the renegotiated space between the garment and body, reflecting a rearrangement of work and home spaces many have experienced over recent years.

Natural fibres such as linens, chambray denims and cottons spoke to a strong sustainability ethos resonating amidst the students and design school. Garments developed by the second year cohort exhibited considered textile explorations, offering contemporary ideations of embroidery, felting and print.
Colour cohesively connected the first and second year designs, offering a smooth yet intriguing blend of soft 70s tones, found in tans, creams and soft chambray blues, textured by nostalgic 90s plaids, blacks and reds.
As the bass notes subsided, Otago Polytechnic’s Head of the College of Art, Design and Architecture, Frederico Freschi,offered gratitude for the event and community that contributed to such. He spoke of the significance of the 31 year-old fashion show, and its status as the last fashion show to be held under the Otago Polytechnic banner before the national polytechnic merger, forming technical institutes under the head of Te Pukenga.

George Park’s collection.

George Park’s collection.

There is little doubt, however, that the fashion show will go on. Freschi then introduced the graduating third-year cohort, tenacious, technically-minded, explorative fashion ideators who started their fashion studies in 2020. This was their night. A night to showcase their five-outfit graduate collections, each collection a culmination of three years of adaptive and innovative thinking applied though their evolving technical skills.
Many third-year collections captured the psyche of lockdown explorations, with notes of reimagined realities and worlds of escape. The line-ups ranged from gaming-inspired streetwear to Game of Thrones-referencing garments, complete with scales, to numerous, voluminous, corset-featuring occasion-wear collections. Other collections drew from tacit experiences of the designers reality, developing upon personal reflective references or critiques of contemporary society.

Francesca Flynn’s collection.

Francesca Flynn’s collection.

Graduating students Minnie Fry, Jess Long, George Park and Francesca Flynn share the meanings of their collections.
Hagyatek, meaning “inheritance” or “legacy”, is a ready-to-wear collection of sustainable clothing inspired by Hungarian folkwear. The purpose of this collection was to draw more attention to traditional Hungarian garments and craftsmanship and to honour my Nana’s memory. I designed this collection to be long-lasting, environmentally conscious, and culturally accurate. While I did want to modernise traditional folkwear in a way that would make it fashionable, I didn’t want to encroach on the original meanings and techniques used. I did this by keeping the hand embroidery and headdresses, which indicate marital status, as well as incorporating some pleated skirts and an apron, which are key features in Hungarian outfits.

Models show off garments from Minnie Fry during the fashion showcase.

Models show off garments from Minnie Fry during the fashion showcase.

The natural fibres, cotton and silk, were dyed with natural dyes such as iron, pomegranate and madder root. As with everything I make, I tried to keep material waste to a minimum and create clothing that won’t harm the health of the wearer or the environment.
Women are sexualised regardless of their attire. Female empowerment is intrinsic to my practice, and the female friendships formed throughout my study have fostered my passion for feminism. The materials range from opaque to sheer, to manifest the idea that women can wear whatever they are comfortable wearing. The garments can be worn to be as exposing or as modest as desired. Crochet was a new challenge for me this year and the physical engagement required enhanced my understanding of the medium. How a woman wants to present herself is her choice; a concept facilitated by my collection.

Francesca Flynn’s collection.

Francesca Flynn’s collection.

My graduate collection “The Nature of Mercury” details a metamorphic creature as they adapt to survive different groups of perpetrators. How the minority adapts to survive the majority — by exploiting their features to blend in. Stored in the subconscious and reflected in the self.

Minnie Fry’s collection.

Minnie Fry’s collection.

Masking, or “social camouflage” gave way to my aesthetic inspiration — exploring modern concealment technology; artificial-intelligence, tactical camouflage, reflection, malformation, proportion, pattern and a complete obscurement of the form. I’ve prioritised a display of variety and abundance of skill, spanning wearability to avant-garde absurdism. From tailoring to dance wear to high-concept material exploration.
“The Colonial Wedding” is inspired by my journey of whakapapa and reconnecting to my iwi, Ngai Tahu. This collection emphasises the impact of colonialism in Aotearoa. Gazing through the lens of Christianity, to explore the reality of indoctrination and the explicit extermination of Maori culture — to the impact this has on Maori wahine today. As a designer, my process is focused on experimenting with textile manipulation and unconventional materials, implementing techniques such as laser cutting, etching, heat moulding and glasswork — to push the limits of the materiality of fashion.
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