4 NZ-Based Designers on Breaking a Creative Rut

Auckland

— August 11, 2019 —

Gosh, the next generation of kiwis are really making us proud to call New Zealand home. We’ve met a colourful bunch of zealous NZ-based creatives over the years—from horse enthusiast Francesca to lol human Ch’lita —and today, we have the pleasure of getting to know a handful more. Not worthy! 

The four bright young designers—Nicola, Holly, Georgia and Charlotte—chat through their creative processes and the ethos that define their labels, and then dish out tips that will resonate with any and all creatives. Get acquainted below! 

Nicola L 

How would you describe your label in a sentence?
My label is the ongoing process of finding identity through my present day thoughts regarding gender, being a women and race, as well as a return to nostalgic themes. 

What are your main ethos?
Personalisation, reclamation, and authenticity. 

Do you have a particular person in mind when designing?
My alter ego.

What role does Instagram play in your business?
Instagram helps me to stay connected to the wider circle of creatives that are also interested in similar ideas of cultural identity, girlhood, and youth subculture. 

What is your creative process like? 
Intuitive and practical. I spend a lot of time collecting materials and objects that I feel intuitively connected to, or that spark something in me. Fabric and trims are super important to me because it inspires the design. The shapes that I use are always rooted in streetwear, but are often driven by a particular detail or fabric quality.
 
How do you pull yourself out of a creative rut?
By being patient and realising that some things take time. By being careful to not fall into the trap of defining my worth by my output. By remembering that not everything that I make has to be successful or meaningful, and that I can make art that is just for myself. By remembering that everything I do can be considered an act of creativity, and that I don't always have to be making or drawing to qualify as creative. 

Any advice to young designers hoping to start their own label?
(This is also a reminder to myself!) Be patient. It might happen straight away, but it might also take three, five or ten years—and that's okay! Use that time getting the experience you require, learn to run a business, work for people you admire (in either a business or design way), save money, figure yourself out more. Work with people who are better than you, read and watch things that improve you, learn humility in all things. 

Nicola wears Nicola L tops, Reliquia earrings, Holiday by Emma Mulholland scrunchie and her own bracelets.
 

If your label was a song…‘Car Seat Headrest’ by 1937 Skate Park. 
If your label was a movie…Shirkers (2018). 
If your label was a smell… Nailpolish and mosh pits. 
If your label was a person… Me. And every other WOC ex/current emo. 
If your label was a season… A spring evening. 

If your label was a meme:

If your label was a YouTube…
VCR footage of Keith Harings' NYE party in 1984 by Nelson Sullivan. 

If your label was an emoji…   

💌

 

Holly @ Mars

How would you describe your label in a sentence?
Mars invokes an organic design process that is whimsical and distinctive.

What are your main ethos? 
The Mars ethos revolves around: Creating distinctive conversational pieces for the girls who appreciate an everyday statement.

Do you have a particular person in mind when designing? 
I always like to design for myself and make sure that I would wear each item. It's so important to be passionate about what you’re creating because if you don't believe in it, no one else will! I also have a solid idea of who the Mars girl is. While she’s changing and growing with the brand, at the moment I see her as someone who looks at everything through sparkly eyes—she’s an enigma, and her personality is defined by a multitude of idiosyncrasies. She’s completely transfixing and stands out from the crowd, but doesn’t seek attention. Basically she’s like magic!

What role does Instagram play in your business? 
Instagram is the backbone of my business and without it Mars wouldn’t exist! It’s the best way to communicate with and reach my customers. It allows me to share an overall feeling through mood images and show what Mars is all about. My instagram following is like a community and I love being able to share the Mars story with them!

What is your creative process like? 
It can be pretty haphazard, but is very organic and intuitive. I’m a very tactile person so a lot of my designing comes through playing around and making things. I'll make prototypes out of clay or sometimes I'll just see something and get inspired by it. For example, my Gloheart clips and earrings are cast from actual Gloheart lollies (I was feeling snacky and saw some at the dairy and thought they’d make cute clips). <3. Often I’ll just play around with things and see what works, so lots of trial and error! With sunglasses, I'll draw out the shapes initially and then I’ll put them in illustrator and put them on a face and work out what proportions work and develop them that way, and then comes all the techy spec stuff. 

How do you pull yourself out of a creative rut? 
I just have to leave my studio and go for a drive—it’s when I do my best thinking. Or, I'll go to budget craft stores and just wander around—they are a sensory overload and I've found that being surrounded by (read: overwhelmed by) things makes me my most creative. I never have good ideas if I'm forcing it, so if it’s not coming to me naturally, I usually just have to do something else and then I'll think of things organically.

Any advice to young designers hoping to start their own label?
When your uni tutors tell you to get some experience before starting your own label, listen to them! And, learn how to wear 20 hats at once (figuratively not literally, but that could be a cool party trick also).


Holly wears Mars hairclips and earrings, Wynn Hamlyn jumper, Après Studio top, Levi's jeans, her own shoes.
 

If your label was a song…
‘Life on Mars?’ by David Bowie

If your label was a movie… 
Daisies (1966) 

If your label was a person… 
Villanelle from Killing Eve. I know she’s a psychopathic assassin but who isn’t obsessed with her?

If your label was a season… 
Spring. 

If your label was a meme…
My nickname is Possum so this one just couldn’t be more perfect. 

If your label was a YouTube… 
It's more of a vine/meme but: 

If your label was an emoji…

The dancing man—he’s groovy. 

🕺

 

Georgia @ Georgia Jay

How would you describe your label in a sentence?
Unfussy and modern. We make bags for women with style, to love and to last.

What are your main ethos?
My sister Ruby and I source, design, sample, develop and produce all of our products in our studio/store in Auckland, New Zealand. Our internal values around transparency within our in-house production is very important to us.  For me, that's been the most rewarding and honest way to develop my business values and internal values. Feeling so connected to the work we produce is extremely rewarding and it inspires us endlessly—it's our brand voice and as we grow we will build our business up around these values.
We also source mostly dead-stock leathers from New Zealand and Australian manufacturers and distributors (dead-stock leathers are the end-of-line leathers, mostly from fashion houses who don't have a use for it anymore and have ended up at our distributors from all over the world, some traceable and some untraceable.) Some leather I just sourced had been at the supplier's since the 90s and is covered in dust, so it's really nice to be able to use these materials and give them life. This means we can only produce very limited runs and one-off pieces within our offerings, which makes things very special for us and for our customers.

Do you have a particular person in mind when designing?
Not a person as such, but more a clean, calm, quiet approach to design that is intentional and well-considered. We also love colour and texture and how that makes us feel. 
 
What role does Instagram play in your business?
It's made our business global—our international market has expanded during the last year and I presume it's thanks to Instagram. It's a great tool to share your story, your process and to connect directly with customers.

Any advice to young designers hoping to start their own label?
Ooooh, always follow your gut. Intuition is your best friend and it will guide you, so always feel things out! Grow slowly, mindfully and with intention, and check-in with your values and direction consistently! Also, just enjoy the mess and the pain of it all, it's all part of your story. 

What is your creative process like?
A huge part of our design process starts with sourcing our materials. I spend a lot of time sourcing our leathers, the colours, textures and patterns always set the tone and feel of the collection. We then focus on techniques we want to explore, new shapes and styles that serve a purpose, then we give it personality. Our designs carry a simplicity which is consistent throughout our collections, a cleanness. Each piece we introduce is very considered, we focus on refining each product over and over all the small details. We have developed unique seamlines, techniques which transfer throughout our collections and has become a huge part of our brand identity. 

How do you pull yourself out of a creative rut?
By getting some fresh air and getting off social media! I find the biggest challenge with managing a business is the importance of having enough time to just be quiet with your thoughts and with your work and letting it come through. I also love sourcing the materials before designing—I'm a very tactile person so once I can feel out the fabrics and materials I'm working with, the rest can flow pretty fluently.


Georgia wears Gary Bigeni blazer, Hansen & Gretel dress, Georgia Jay bags.

 

If your label was a song…
‘I’ll Call You Back’ by Erykah Badu 

If your label was a movie…
Funny Face (1957)

If your label was a smell…
Clothes straight out of the dryer. 

If your label was a person…
Audrey Tautou in Amelie. 

If your label was a season…
Spring. 

If your label was an emoji…

👜

 

Charlotte @ Frisson Knits

How would you describe your label in a sentence? 
A fashion-forward way of looking at handknits.

What are your main ethos?
Sustainable yarn used in a thoughtful manner.

Do you have a particular person in mind when designing?
A thoughtful consumer who wants something out of the ordinary with longevity. 

What role does Instagram play in your business? 
Instagram plays a pivotal role in my business because of its worldwide influence. 

What is your creative process like? 
Taking traditional craft and making it relevant to a modern woman.

How do you pull yourself out of a creative rut? 
By going op-shopping and looking at designs from previous decades.

Any advice to young designers hoping to start their own label?
The importance of perseverance and flexibility, and not taking yourself too seriously.


Charlotte wears Frisson Knits jumpers, Valet Studio hairclips, her own jeans, bag and boots.


If your label was a song… ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ by Frank Loesser

If your label was a movie… Amélie (2001) 

If your label was a smell… Fiele Fragrances Boswellia. 

If your label was a season… Winter. 

If your label was a meme… I had to look up different memes and none of them seemed to fit the part! 

If your label was a YouTube… I actually don’t watch YouTube. 

 

Feature: Madeleine Woon     Photos: Daphne Nguyen    Fashion: Chloe Hill

Shot on location in Auckland, New Zealand

                    

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