Hey, NZ fashion industry. Get on the blower to these fashion grads now

Battle lines were drawn in the war of pretty, pastels, and grunge.

The NZFW: Kahuria Graduate Show is always a hot ticket for designers looking to recruit their freshest set of eyes, and for fashion media hoping to discover the next big thing in fashion. This year, the graduate camps were clear: whimsical and playful, or black-heavy, utilitarian design that fell somewhere on the minimalist to anarchist spectrum. 

Here are the six graduate designers that we will be keeping an eye on.

Ayano Hara-Alderson

Proof that clothing is indeed therapy, Ayano Hara-Alderson channels sobriety and heart in a multi-sensory, monochrome collection ‘Absent Presence’ which, in an “act of self-therapy” pays homage to the designer’s late sister and partner-in-clothes sharing. Jacquard hypotically folds down one sleeve, an oversized sheer trench swishes down the runway, and constellations of waist pintucks swirl the eye across the body. Our prediction? If Ayano Hara-Alderson heads down the solo label route after her current role as product assistant at Kate Sylvester, a residence at Workshop or The Shelter is imminent. 

Imperfect Creatures 

If anyone’s going to give Stolen Girlfriends Club a run for their money, it’s Imperfect Creatures. In keeping with therapy speak, Otago Polytechnic graduate Ethan Cruise described his collection as a wearable Rorschach of damaged finery and abstruse signals. Very Dunedin-guard, yet very unique. Not to mention, strikes a level of balance between structure, distress, and a smattering of brand motifs often unseen in NZFW Graduate collections. Perhaps what impresses us the most about this graduate label is its bullet-proof brand DNA, which Ethan Cruise has tastefully maintained above his myriad brand collaborations


Shirting, knitting, a buttery silk: there’s no texture that Taylor Pumphrey of Otago Polytechnic Te Pūkenga can’t make impossibly pretty. Blending the art of self-discovery with Te Ao Māori, Pumphrey’s label Atireira ponders the emotion that goes into the wearing of a garment. In the case of the frothy designs on display today, it’s the giddiness of lapping up a Copenhagen Cone (this is a Mount Maunganui brand, after all); the contentedness of a weekend cheeseboard (the handmade Ōriwa Cable Jumper is responsible for this), all wrapped up with the frivolity of a beaded hair bow. As for the stone-blue-grey cutaway dress? You’d feel un-fucking-stoppable. 

Amelia Phillips 

Sick of the pressure to purchase a dress-per-occasion come wedding season? So is Amelia Phillips, graduate of Otago Polytechnic Te Pūkenga. Her ‘Happily Ever After’ collection is designed to take you from Millbrook to Mudbrick, Craggy Range to Kauri Bay Boomrock and beyond – no small fortune of Aje and Zimmerman dress rentals necessary. Phillips’ designs propose a reconfiguration of event dressing. Frankly, we could even see these pieces being worn by fashion-forward brides. The icing on the cake is that you can patiently wait for news from Amelia Phillips online.

Ella Hodson

We never thought we’d see the day where Auckland’s aesthetic it-chair becomes an evening dress. Yet, here we are, in love. Inspired by architects Marcel Breuer, Charles and Ray Eames, and Charlotte Perriand, Ella Hodson’s Mae Label keeps Whitecliffe’s legacy of innovative and artistic graduate showings alive, and proves that basics don’t have to be boring. Simple, well-tailored eveningwear – custom fitted to the model’s body – makes for a wearable collection, while well-placed chrome piping make the whole thing sing. The brand’s online presence is minimal, but that adds to the allure, surely?

Dollie Vardin hats

Dawei Zhang

The word ‘inspiring’ gets thrown around an awful lot in fashion, but we think no other word can describe Whitecliffe graduate Dawei Zhang’s collection, for which he worked with (you might say, resuscitated) Dollie Varden – a fiercely-guarded private millinery atelier in Christchurch. For one, it inspires us to live the kind of life where we not only have the time to fastidiously button up our perfectly crisp, white Victorian chemise, but will also keep it free from stains as we swan around various marble corridors, hosting various masquerade balls.