Wellington designer Havilah Arendse has been sketching her vibrant fashion since she was 9 years old. At 16, she studied fashion at Whitecliffe, before moving to Massey to further her design education.
Now, she runs her own label and store, Havilah, with a focus on sustainability and diversity. She lives in city suburb Mt Cook with her mum, Michelle. The pair are in the middle of renovating their home.
Havilah: After a few years of interning - and learning how to sew on equipment that I never knew existed - I decided, “hey, there's no better time than the present to see how people like what I'm doing”, so started the label [Havilah]. It's been four years now.
I really wanted concept dresses such as my Unapologetic dress [which showed at New Zealand Fashion Week 2018 as part of the New Generation showcase] to be my main thing, just because I love doing gowns like that, I find it quite therapeutic.
But I also realised I needed to be realistic. It's quite good having both [ready-to-wear and made-to-order]. You get to meet the most interesting people just from having this beautiful thing in common, which is a love for whimsical clothing.
I would say my clothing is definitely for the bold, or any maximalist that loves layering. It's an exuberant style.
Colour is really important to me. While I was studying, I was fascinated by psychology and how it relates to colour theory, the emotions and the memories it evokes. So I like to surround myself with colours that make me feel happy or that resonate with a memory.
I try to stay away from overseas trends just because I feel like that is done enough. It gives me the peace of mind to just do what I want to do. There have been a few times when the colours I used have been on trend, which is great, but I don't follow trends. I just go with what feels right to me.
My decor is the same. If you look at my store, my house is definitely an extension of the store. I just always love being surrounded by colour and quirky things.
I think the entire house has slowly become my studio. I do have a room dedicated to just creating, but it ends up moving to my bedroom, into the lounge, into the hallway. It's just about moving my sewing machine around, picking the best spot where the sun is perfect and I feel comfortable, and parking up there for the day.
The house to me is my happy place.
I would describe my decor style as quirky, and random. It's very random. Mum and I have very different tastes, she's very black and white, and I'm very fluorescent colours and prints. So it's about finding a balance between the two that works for us both.
I think, because I am home more than Mum, I tend to gradually move my colours into the living areas and hope that she doesn't notice. Usually it works.
We are in the middle of renovating, so the house is definitely now in the middle of both our styles. My mum studied architecture; she's very architecture and interior-design based, which is fantastic.
Mum and I love DIY. A lot of the things we got for the house we thrifted and made our own, hence why everything is a bright colour. We talked about building a few quirky home things, because you can't find them [in stores]. There's definitely been some research into how to make our own things. It looks like fun. I think you find a lot of joy in making things
Sustainability is at the core of the label, and it's just a way of life for me. I try to be as zero waste as I can at home. In my production line I try to make sure that we are as circular as possible, even though we're still a baby brand. I'd like to start strong [on sustainability] and just continue it into every facet of my life.
The more well known the brand becomes you find that urgency to deliver [increases]. Made-to-order is actually quite hard in that respect. We did do a few runs of production, but you do tend to get penalised for doing small runs – you end up paying double the price per garment, which is hard for small brands.
So it's about being honest with your customers: Made-to-order works for us, and it works for you, because you get the size you want, instead of going with whatever size is on the rack
I'm a massive fabric hoarder, which you'll probably see in the photos. I keep everything, the smallest off-cut. Everything is organised. It's just a way of life for me.
One thing no home should be without is probably flowers. Mum and I really love and appreciate them. I think that's because we grew up with my grandmother who absolutely loves to garden and will talk to the plants every morning. So we've definitely taken fresh flowers or dried flowers wherever we live. And a lot of plants, just plants everywhere.
I have become a pot plant collector. It's Wellington. I mean, I had plants before, but [since coming here] it's got completely out of hand, there are cuttings everywhere. It got to the point where we had too many plants in the house, so I moved them all to the store and borrow some back for the house.
I lived in the UK and South Africa before coming to New Zealand. I think I feel more at home here because I've lived here the longest, but I do miss the culture and the colours of Africa. Just walking down the road and seeing a fluorescent van parked up at a pastel coloured house, or a florescent house with beautiful trimmings. Colour was just everywhere, and I do miss that. It was just a very vibrant place to live.
But I love living in New Zealand. I remember I got off the plane and on the drive to the house, looking out the window going, 'there are so many trees here!’.
Then calling my grandmother and saying, “you will never guess how many trees I saw on the way to the house!” Everything's just so lush. I love that it's filled with nature wherever you look.