LEO+BE offers inspiring internship to high school student

Ketz-ke x Ella Cook

Designer Jenny Drury from LEO+BE and student Ella Cook. Image supplied.

2020 was certainly a rollercoaster year and while it wasn’t the easiest time to be in business, LEO+BE still found a way to give back. Founder and designer Jenny Drury took on Year 13 Carmel College and top design student Ella Cook for a hands-on internship that saw the young talent designing an outfit for the brand’s Autumn 2021 collection.

Any internship requires time, energy and resources to be successful and while that may put extra pressure on a small business, Jenny is passionate about nurturing young talent. “Despite all the headaches that Covid-19 was causing it felt like the right time to give back, plus Ella impressed me with her demeanour and tenacity from the get-go,” says Jenny Drury.

As part of her internship Ella was briefed to create a head-to-toe look that captured the LEO+BE brand identity and the needs of its customers. Ella was keen to get into the research, market analysis and design development that would make her designs a great fit for the brand. Her final outfit comprised of three pieces, a jacket, pants and top that were inspired by the beauty of nature in New Zealand.

Ella’s outfit has since been produced and presented to LEO+BE retailers up and down the country, with orders now available in stores and online. Aside from designing an outfit, Ella got to learn a lot about how a fashion label works and was able to lend a hand at photoshoots, contribute to design sessions, help with product dispatch and more during her internship.

At the end of 2020, Ella received an incredible 23/24 for her course in NCEA, placing her second overall in the whole of New Zealand for Technology and first overall for Materials Technology – a result she puts down to hard work and the mentoring she received from Jenny.

We caught up with Ella to find out more about her internship, what she loves about designing clothing and what surprised her about working in the fashion industry?

How did your internship with LEO+BE come about and how did you feel on your first day with Jenny?
For my NCEA Level 3 Materials Technology project my school (Carmel College) set the brief of working with a brand/mentor to create an outcome that was fit for purpose. With this brief, I set out to find a brand willing to take on a student. It was a period of reaching out to companies and being turned down due to the additional stresses of Covid at the time and many not being able to facilitate something of this degree. However, I was elated when I received Jenny’s response happy to help. Thus the internship began! Fair to say I was pretty nervous for my first meeting with Jenny and the girls at LEO+BE but it was a breeze. They were very open and willing to take on a rookie, and I was keen to learn! From there, it’s been loads of meetings, conversations, laughs and plenty of emails back and forth.

What is your favourite thing about designing clothes and why?
Designing has always been something I’ve been passionate about. For me, it’s the creative process and the adrenaline rush that comes from putting fresh ideas together. The possibilities that come from a pencil and a sketchbook when you’re in the right mindset are endless!

Ketz-ke x Ella Cook

Ella Cook’s outfit for LEO+BE.

What did you learn about the fashion industry through working with LEO+BE that surprised you?
I’ve learnt so much. One thing that took me a while to wrap my heap around is the lead time on what they’re working on. You have always got your mind in a season ahead of the one we are in. I never quite realised that the industry works so far in advance, designing pieces for the next year’s collection. I was designing for winter 2021 in June/July 2020.

What was the inspiration behind the look your created?
The inspiration came from wanting to reflect something that was truly New Zealand, at our back door if we only took the time. From that, came my theme ‘Look Around’. Writing this sitting in Medlands Beach on Great Barrier Island encapsulates exactly the essence of what the idea ‘Look Around’ meant to me. It’s about getting back to local and looking around our own NZ backyard. Taking that extra moment to appreciate and take in all its beauty. Taking a second look at places you been before and exploring others for the first time. Each garment I designed has an element to it that reflects this theme, whether it’s the structure of the jacket representing the more rugged coastlines of NZ or the fluidity of the blouse from our oceans and rivers.

How did it feel to see your outfit finished and know that it’s part of LEO+BE’s Winter collection?
It’s a pretty wild feeling! I feel so grateful to Jenny, she believed in me and told me to ‘take the reins’ in a sense for this collection. So I did, from the base inspiration to the final designs of the pieces I’ve created. She liked what I was creating so much, she has made it part of their collection to be sold in stores nationwide. It is a blend of a huge feeling of accomplishment and that of gratitude towards Jenny and the team at LEO+BE. They have been a great group to have this internship with, always giving me opportunities and allowing me to get the most out of the internship experience. Probably more than I imagined at the beginning if I’m honest.

Do you see a future for yourself in the fashion industry and what would you like that to be?
I definitely do see a future for myself in the fashion industry. The world of fashion is something that I’ve always gravitated towards and I don’t feel that is changing anytime soon! This project with Jenny and LEO+BE has provided an incredible start. I submitted the project for an NCEA Technology Scholarship last year and it was awarded the top Materials Technology score in the country! I think heading towards a career in buying or working within a fashion brand would be the dream come true for me. So here’s hoping…

Images supplied.