Samurai style

Massey University fashion design graduate Steve Hall, 25, (pictured left) has spent the past 18 months working jobs as a waiter, packing meat and picking kiwifruit to save money to fund his passion for fashion design.

His efforts paid off when judges unanimously voted his Samurai-style inspired collection Abandon Man as the winner of the MiNDFOOD Style first prize at this year’s iD International Emerging Designer Awards on April 23.

His strong, masculine and military-inspired Oriental “warrior” look seamlessly counterbalanced by the soft touch of cut, proportion and shape was praised by the judges – Doris Raymond of L.A. Frockstars, fashion designers Tanya Carlson and Margi Robertson of NOM*d, New Zealand Fashion Museum founder Doris De Pont and MiNDFOOD Style associate editor Carolyn Enting – as “quietly confident”.

The collection possessed a loose, simple and minimalist feel through the deliberate lack of surface detail, stitching and embellishment where possible to enhance the garments’ structure creating an almost ‘armour’ effect. Pleat and pocket detail were manipulated and placed unconventionally within and around the garments to accommodate for the desired oversized fullness and movement. The construction of most garments involved some form of double-layering, lining and hand-stitching. Snap fasteners and zips were used as the openings. Bag strapping also featured in the collection as shoulder straps and hand-made sandals. Hall also restricted the colour palette to the darker hues influenced by the traditional samurai uniforms.

“There was nothing traditional about it. It wasn’t over the top; in a quietly confident way it was a new silhouette for a guy, which is refreshing,” says Robertson. “It was very beautifully constructed, and it could be worn by men or women. Very androgynous.”

Hall judging for web

Hall will continue to pick kiwifruit in Te Puke, his home town, for the remainder of the season so that he can save more money to add his $6000 cash prize before making his next move, whether that is travelling to intern with an international designer or setting up his own label he has yet to decide. His dream goal is the latter. One thing is certain, the money will be spent on his fashion design career.

Growing up in a small rural town of Te Puke, Hall was subconsciously always interested in fashion and “spontaneously” enrolled in the fashion diploma at Bay of Plenty Polytechnic in 2008. It was his first insight into fashion and how it was created. In 2011 he decided to complete his studies at Massey University in Wellington.

“Wellington offered a totally different way of life that I was used to and slowly I became more comfortable with the way I wanted to dress and express myself,” he says.

He describes his designs as “country boy meets city street kid”.

“Inspiration for me stems from my surrounding, anything I find intriguing, exciting and different. Things that require a second look. My aesthetic could be described as street, op-shop, grandma/grandpa, gangster, dark and nothing overly colorful. I am drawn heavily towards the Orient. I enjoy subtly pushing and blurring the lines between ‘his’ and ‘hers’ into more ‘theirs’,” he says.

Hall says the clothes he created for Abandon Man were what he envisions himself wearing. The title Abandon Man references Japanese culture and the term ‘Ronin’ a masterless samurai, a warrior adrift with no lord to serve.

“It was based on samurais and ninjas and very oriental and I chose pleats, lining and strapping to be the main design features,” he says. “I like the fact that they look like skirts but they are actually really low crotch shorts. It is very androgynous, very unisex but it is aimed more towards men.

“I love the creativity of design. For me it’s a way to express myself, be creative and say ‘hey, this is what I like and how I think. I’m not a big man for words. It’s almost internalised and then it just comes out in my designs.”

Pictures: Chris Sullivan

Collection challenges ideals

Even though Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology graduate Laura Manning didn’t scoop any awards at the iD International Emerging Designer Awards last week, she definitely caught the attention and imagination of the judges for her well thought through and beautifully executed collection, Fronting.

“If there had been an award for best conceptual design, Manning would have won it,” says MiNDFOOD Style associate editor Carolyn Enting, one of the five judges.

Manning’s collection poked fun at the feminine ideal using aspirational elements of red carpet wear. Her gowns were cropped, chopped and bricolaged within systems of stacking and layering.

The train of her bridal gown was a patchwork of hidden treasures from Chantilly lace to pieces of white velvet with the names of “feminine ideal” icons including Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Kardashian (a nod to their less than perfect marriage histories) burned into the fabric.

Manning bridal web

An emerald green dress concealed a similar panel listing the names of leading ladies who’d worn iconic gowns in this colour including Keira Knightly (Atonement 2007).

manning for web

Manning investigated the idea of allure and image and flaws in glamour. Using flaws and cracks in the dated feminine image, pulling apart and reconstructing the image, as if many copies of the image had been torn up and stuck back together.

Laura Fanning_0023 for web

While this was highlighted through crudely cut pieces of cloth and large layers of seam allowance to illustrate nonchalance and a crass attempt at the classical evolution of the female, Manning’s gowns were a mastery of layering through swatching and stunning details from finely knitted ruffles in red to iron-on Swarovski crystals, and whimsical crowns.

“I was left to question the relevance of fine detail and its integrity to the garment,” Manning says. “I sought to achieve aesthetic outcomes that communicate the loss of desire within the discarded runway image.”

Laura Fanning for web