22 Nov 2015

Personal stories emerge in Otago fashion collections

From Standing Room Only, 2:45 pm on 22 November 2015

By Sonia Sly

Personal stories provide a powerful starting point for Otago Polytechnic, Bachelor of Fashion Design students.

Fashion provides a means of communicating ideas that are invariably brought to life by the wearer. But behind any collection there must be a cohesive theme or story that  feeds into the design process, tying it all together.

Designer Julia Palm takes inspiration from Brethren culture

Designer Julia Palm takes inspiration from Brethren culture Photo: image supplied

Combining a personal interest in punk and fetish wear with a personal story of her mother’s experience growing up in the Exclusive Brethren informs the work of third year student, Julia Palm.

“She left when she 17, so I was actually playing with a lot of themes and rules and regulations that she had to abide by when she was younger.”

Palm uses goats fur and human hair to accessorise her collection--she references a quote from the Darby bible that was recited to her mother who, against Brethren tradition, always wanted to cut her hair:

Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from the hills of Gilead.

“She always pictured these scraggly old goats on a mountain and really didn’t understand why [she couldn’t cut her hair],” says Palm.  

Julia Palm uses goat fur and human hair to tell  the story of her collection

Julia Palm uses goat fur and human hair to tell the story of her collection Photo: image supplied

The young designer was one of a select handful of students chosen to show at Shanghai Fashion Week in October, as part of the ‘Shanghai Dunedin Sister City Fashion Communication Project.’ 

She believes her work was chosen due to the strength of her aesthetic,and says it was a great opportunity to show her collection at the high profile international event.

When asked how the Chinese responded to her choice of materials, she says, “There was definitely a language barrier, so there wasn’t a lot of discussion around what materials we used.  Pretty much the whole time I had my comb in my pocket and was trying to get the hair to sit perfectly as the model was about to walk out.” 

Palm hadn’t considered the Shanghai project when she began developing her collection, but firmly believes New Zealand fashion design has a place in the cosmopolitan city.

“I definitely think there is a market for New Zealand designers in Shanghai. We have a really strong voice as New Zealander designers and that definitely shows through,” she says.

Listen to the audio story where Sonia Sly also speaks to designer Andrea Short who created a collection based on a what she refers to as, ‘a lace made from corrosive materials,’ and Beth  Wogan reveals how a head injury and facial disfigurement from an accident earlier his year, fed into her ‘subversive’ menswear collection.