The concept of “youth” can be a complicated one in fashion, an industry that has, in the past, idolised it at all costs.
Fortunately in recent years there has been a shift, with increased diversity in the imagery we see from brands and platforms – featuring the young, old, and everyone in between – and an understanding that genuine style is less about age, than it is a mindset.
It is also true however that often, it’s the younger generation that pushes fashion forward: experimenting with clothes and personal style as they discover and explore their identity.
The same can be said for younger or emerging designers; the next generation who helps set the tone for where fashion and the prevailing aesthetic will go next. I’ve been around long enough now to see several waves of exciting young talent enter and grow up in the local fashion industry, and the thrill of stumbling on someone fresh never goes away – whether it’s witnessing a standout collection from a fashion student at an end of year show, finding someone at a market or out of the way pop up store, or at a longstanding talent incubator such as iD Dunedin Fashion, which will be on from March 31-April 1. Now, it’s just far easier with the reach of Instagram.
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Sustainability is a major focus for a lot of these emerging designers, reflective of the younger generation that is conscious of fashion’s waste problem and sceptical of fast fashion – while also working through the consumerist pressure of things such as hauls and fast-paced TikTok trends.
Many embrace a slower, or project based, approach that rejects the traditional concept of a “season” or collections. And while the industry always needs the”‘next gen” to subvert expectations and push for change, I am keen to see that idea of sustainability to extend to business. We have very much moved on from the idea of “the next big thing” – small can be good, and deliberate – but sustainable can also mean staying true to themselves, while growing, staying afloat and being able to sell their designs and properly service customers.
Fashion is a tough industry, but a creative one worthy of our support – whether it’s buying something to cherish for years to come, or simply following a young designer on social media if your budget doesn’t allow a purchase right now.
Rhoda Nunn (@rhodanunn)
Who: Emma Muir. Where: Ōtepoti
In their own words: “Playing with juxtaposition and reference, I look to weave themes of nostalgia and optimism through my designs, creating garments that are wistful, yet playful.”
Of note to us: It was the frilly bloomers that first caught my eye, with their layers of ruffles and ribbon detail. I’m a fan of her simple but hyper adorable white cotton dresses and tops with ribbon and lace edging.
Shannen Young (@shannen_young)
Who: Shannen Young. Where: Tāmaki Makaurau
In their own words: “one of one and special jewels.”
Of note to us: Whimsical jewellery with an edge, including imperfect ribbon pendants, textural oversized star and heart earrings and other one-off works of wearable art. Shannen’s pieces are available to buy or commission on Instagram.
Caitlin Snell (@caitlinsnell_)
Who: Caitlin Snell. Where: Tāmaki Makaurau
In their own words: “Ethically produced and sustainably considered pieces, that are handmade in New Zealand.”
Of note to us: Bows! And lots of them. Caitlin creates oversized bow barrettes and bags with a zero waste approach, using dead stock and scrap silk, cotton and wool to “create old from new”.
Nicole van Vuuren (@ncolevanvuurn)
Who: Nicole van Vuuren. Where: Tāmaki Makaurau
In their own words: “Very slow fashion.”
Of note to us: Authentic use of upcycling, working with off-cuts and scraps to transform them into patchwork-like garments. She also runs NVV World, a studio and showroom on Auckland’s Karangahape Rd featuring her own designs alongside other young independent designers.
Who: Kristen Meaclem. Where: Pōneke
In their own words: “My designs are inspired by fashion as a form of escapism, fantasy and body modification. As kids, we would dress up in costumes and play make-believe – I still see clothing through that lens.”
Of note to us: Outrageously sexy and playful bikinis in bold shades and featuring happy and sad clown faces, tattoo prints, piercings and more.
Who: Grace Ko. Where: Tāmaki Makaurau
In their own words: “A place to play.”
Of note to us: Beginning as a jewellery brand (their colourful resin heart pendants are a fashion insider favourite), Baobei has embraced fun and experimentation with the addition of slogan T-shirts, chain belts, temporary tattoos and typography-focused phone wallpapers (“ambitious, disciplined, really hot,” being a current favourite).
Depth of Scye (@depth.of.scye)
Who: Caleb Barnett. Where: Pōneke
In their own words: “Beautiful and sombre.”
Of note to us: A sense of the theatrical, with silk ruffle neck blouses, waxed cotton maxi skirts and vintage leather jackets hand painted with graphics. Victorian inspired collars and chokers are a recent release.
Jing He (@__jinghe__)
Who: Jing He. Where: Tāmaki Makaurau.
In their own words: My work elevates functionality and motion. Textures and lines of construction are at the core of my pieces, providing practical garments that can be worn by all in a variety of ways.”
Of note to us: Textured, layered streetwear that’s caught the eye of many in the industry – the puffer jackets and denim in particular.
Jess Grindell (@jessgrindell)
Who: Jess Grindell. Where: Tāmaki Makaurau
In their own words: “A visual project to dictate a powerful female aesthetic that represents women today. An energy created from the disadvantages women face day-to-day due to their gender.”
Of note to us: Grindell’s designs embody a powerful feminine energy with her equestrian-inspired silk shirts in bold jewel tones, delicate corset covers and an unexpected streetwear edge (trucker caps and flattering board shorts).
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