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 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