Estelle Michaelides flies east to meet two designers poised on the brink of fashion’s future…

Estelle Michaelides photographed at The Westin hotel by Meagan Harding.

Estelle Michaelides photographed at The Westin hotel by Kayla Piccolo.

“…My reaction to fashion is emotional and intuitive. I view it like art, with an open mind and heart and, considering it is as multifarious as art, we can’t be offhand about its capacity to effect.  I need fashion to talk to me, to tell me its story and to translate the designer’s backstory. I want to be submerged, I want to embark on a journey that leaves me contemplative and reflective of my own style. On my recent trip to New Zealand Fashion Week two designers left me doing a solo standing ovation! The first, Tess Norquay, layered textures, colours, prints and cuts with the skill of a natural sartorial artist; all the more wondrous for one so young. Tess’s designs are courageous and fervent, bold but not garish. She knows when to be gutsy and when to be restrained. The second designer, Jerome Taylor from the menswear label Not For You, showed his humility, sensibility and earnest connection to the issue of homelessness in New Zealand in a collection that was insightful, relevant and beautiful. I asked them some questions; here are their answers….” Estelle Michaelides.

Tess Norquay

EM: Tell us about your label

TN: My label is a newborn baby, because I am fresh out of University, and this was my first fashion week. As such, it’s hard to know how to define my label just yet! I like designing clothes that aren’t too serious: excessive amounts of colour and print, with extreme silhouettes.


EM:How should fashion be approached?

TN:I don’t think it’s my place to tell anyone how to approach fashion! I know what I like, and if other people like it too, then that’s super exciting. The best thing about fashion, though, is that everyone has a choice about how to present themselves. If everyone’s choosing their outfits based on genuine love for the clothes, then that’s ideal, in my book.


EM:What’s your view on NZ fashion?

TN:My heart is full of love for New Zealand, and our fashion too. I think our relative isolation means that our inspiration has to come from a huge variety of places, and, as a result, we have a huge range in the types of designers we produce. I think it’s so cool that one tiny country can have such a range, from Jimmy D to World to Kate Sylvester. Another great thing about New Zealand fashion is watching my friends succeed! I was just as excited for my friends Shannen and Yoshino (who were also in the graduate show) to be at fashion week as I was to be there myself.

EM: What/who influences your work?

TN: My favourite ever designer is Hannah Jinkins. Her work makes my heart flutter, like I’m falling in love. Craig Green is also fantastic in every way. I also love the artworks of David Shrigley, his sense of humour is right up my alley, and I was thinking of him when I designed my undies print and my foot shaped backpack (handbag, more like footbag! Hahaha, I’ll show myself out)


EM: What’s your advice on anyone wanting to study fashion design?

TN: To the prospective student who’s on the fence about doing fashion design: Don’t do it if you’re not prepared for fashion to be a dominant thing on your mind for the next four years. I’m talking in the shower, I’m talking about right before you go to sleep. I’m talking about scuttling away to the work bathroom to make note of a “eureka” moment you’ve just had. I don’t recognise the pre-design school me. I feel about fifty years older, and I also have a crack in my tooth from stress-related teeth grinding. However, I also am a lot more thoughtful, critical and self-motivated, so I guess that’s an okay tradeoff.


EM: What do you want people to know about you (re your work)?

TN: I designed this collection while eating chips and watching America’s Next Top Model reruns. So little of fashion is a glamorous experience.

Jerome Taylor, Not For You

EM: Tell us about your label

JT: Not For You (N.F.U) is a unique high end men’s label that’s inspired by art, music, love and current events. N.F.U is 100% designed and made in Wellington, New Zealand, featuring pieces that are more than a brand; this is armour for everyday living to help you take on your dreams and to achieve your goals.


EM: What/who influences your work?

JT: All of my collections are based on what has happened or what is going on in my own life. I come from an art background and I look at fashion in the same way I look at a blank canvas; I can get it all off my chest and out of my mind without ever having to utter a word. It’s therapy for the soul.


EM: Who are you marketing your label towards?

JT: My label is called Not For You and that’s because its not for everyone and I will never change that. It is for someone who wants quality alongside key characteristics such as individuality, unique style and for those who want to stand out from the crowd and break fast fashion. It’s for someone who has dreams and plans on achieving them. Not For You is for the lion not the sheep.


EM: What should people know before deciding to start a business in the fashion industry?

JT: Well first of all you want to make sure it is what you really want and you do that by asking yourself why you want it. The why is so that everytime it gets hard (and trust me it will get HARD!) you can remember why you’re doing it, why it means so much to you and why you will never give up. The stronger your why the more likely you are to succeed. Secondly, come up with a plan on how you will create your business and make it as vivid and as realistic as you can then make a start on it, immediately. Don’t worry if you feel the time isn’t right or you don’t think you know enough; that’s just an excuse caused by a fear of failing. Then, just be persistent and everyday you will move closer and closer to reaching your goal.


EM: Why was it important to make a statement about homelessness in this collection?

JT: I was overwhelmed with the amount of New Zealanders who are homeless; 1 in 100. However, upon discovering this statistic the more I came to realise that homelessness is so much more complex than what I once believed. Not so long ago it was very rare to see someone homeless but as our population grows, so does our homeless community. I hope by bringing this to more peoples’ attention, together as a country we can work at solving this. The more knowledge we have the more power we have to change situations.


EM: What do you want people to know about you (re your work)?

JT: I want every person to know that you can achieve any dream that you can think of. I am a high school drop out who used to work as a roofer and now I’m on my way to becoming New Zealand’s top menswear designer. I have had so many lows and hard times but that happens to everyone; you need to grow from them and push yourself because if you can’t believe in yourself and in your dream then why would anyone else?