Ngahuia Williams and Holly Rose Emery are friends who also happen to be two of Aotearoa’s most successful and well-known models.
Having modelled for many years here and overseas, the pair have a unique perspective of the industry; also working together at Ngahuia’s business and agency N Management, guiding and mentoring a new generation of models and creatives.
Today, they continue to appear in front of the camera, but their passions increasingly lie behind it as keen photographers. So in the spirit of exploring our own backyard, Ngahuia and Holly Rose packed up a suitcase of clothes and hit the road for a weekend road trip through Huntly, Karangahake Gorge and Lake Rotoehu - photographing each other and the landscape along the way.
The fashion industry has been a very prominent part of both your lives. Have you worked in other industries - and how have either shaped your view on life and fashion?
Ngahuia: The only other job I had was at the beauty counter at Kmart as a teenager. I found it difficult back then to be so structured, having scheduled breaks and also to work for someone else full time.
Beginning the journey into the fashion industry through modelling as a late teenager helped me grow excitement for new surroundings. I loved working with teams on projects to create someone's vision. I love working with people older than me; I feel it helped me become responsible early on. It taught me how to manage myself, and I found that expression through art, fashion and music was so much more open than the little I knew at that time. I enjoyed the lesser judgement of the fashion industry and felt like my personal idea of fashion and expression was hugely created during those early years.
My love for other countries and cultures, I owe to my modelling career. Solo travel is something I cherish and because of the opportunities the fashion industry gave me, I spent a lot of time enjoying (and struggling) with my own company while seeing the globe through open eyes.
Holly Rose: I started my working life as a 16-year-old in the modelling world, so fashion has always been the direction of my career. Even during my time away from modelling, I sought out jobs that felt familiar, so ended up working in fashion retail. I did a brief stint at a catering company but the hospo life was not for me although it’s not completely unlike what I knew.
The fashion industry helped me mature - I was thrown into such a grown-up world with such different challenges that I had never experienced before, so it has given me a pretty uniquely shaped view of this world. I am so grateful for all the opportunities this industry has afforded me, and all of the lessons. It’s so incredible to be a part of such a creative industry and to be able to travel. I feel lucky!
Ngahuia wears Paloma Wool jacket, $439. Vintage skirt. Dr. Martens, $280.
Are you thoughtful in your wardrobe choices?
Ngahuia: After the nation's [first] Covid lockdown, I would now say yes. I cleaned out my wardrobe and really focused on mixing my well-made pieces with my practical items - and of course kept my favourite secondhand pieces. Now, I would only really look for gaps in what I would purchase and make more thoughtful choices based on what I need and what would go with what. It has made me consider what I wear and enjoy my wardrobe a lot more.
Holly Rose: Most of the time I enjoy taking the time to think my outfits through and put together something that makes me feel confident and cool…but some days when I’m tired I generally just resort to jeans and a jumper. But even then I have to have the right jumper.
Today’s fashion, are you a part of it? How do you perceive it?
Ngahuia: I guess I am. I’m not someone who likes to wear something that everyone else is wearing but I use social media and am influenced by others. I am a victim of fast fashion for some of my basic purchases but for the most part, I try, and really think about expensive pieces, supporting locally as well as being a regular to local secondhand stores wherever I am at the time. Sometimes I think about the amount of clothing on our planet and I do consistently lean towards buying something that is preloved because of this.
Holly Rose: I think we’re all a part of general fashion whether we like to accept it or not. We’re all influenced by one another especially with the advent of social media, it’s so easy to gain inspiration and because of fast fashion, it’s so easy to achieve many different styles. With that being said, I’ve really tried to stop shopping at fast fashion stores. I find it so rewarding to spend a day sifting through secondhand stores and finding epic pieces that I’ll treasure for ages.
Behind the lens and in front of the lens - what does this mean to you?
Ngahuia: Being in front of the lens has been a way of me earning a living for nearly two decades. I have watched myself grow into a woman in front of the camera, I have created art, worn the most incredible garments, had a few images created of me out there that I'm not entirely happy with, haha, but being in front of the lens has been a regular thing for me for over half my life.
Being behind it is what has progressed from a modelling career. I must say I enjoy taking photographs more these days. I love the excitement of seeing a creation made by you that you love. And also capturing beauty, human and natural forms.
Holly Rose: Being in front of the lens is such a surreal experience. It’s so awesome to be able to play a role in achieving a bigger picture and to be able to be a form of art to a degree. I really love the fact that you can turn up to work and embody a whole new character for a day.
Behind the lens is such a cool transition. Being in front of the camera really opened up the world and idea of being behind the lens to me. I love being able to create imagery I love and capture things that I find inspiring. It’s awesome to see everything come together at the end of the day.
Ngahuia wears Penny Sage dress, $490.
Expression and clothing. What do these words mean to you?
Ngahuia: I love clothing as a form of expression - to express feelings or a persona. I also really appreciate others who are confident and wear clothing well.
Holly Rose: They go hand in hand for me. I love being able to express myself through what I wear; if I’m in a good mood, I find getting ready for the day such an enjoyable process. I think what I wear really reflects who I am and my multiple personalities haha.
Both of you have modelled for many brands and it has been your job to ultimately contribute to sales of clothing, Are you influenced fashion wise by models yourself?
Ngahuia: Yes, I do enjoy looking at what others are wearing, how people wear things - and I have totally bought things I have seen on models wearing it well. Normally more leaning towards their personal style, but I do love seeing someone well styled by a great stylist too!
Holly Rose: I agree with Nga, I mainly look at street style but I do really appreciate a great styled editorial.
On a friendship level, do you converse about fashion?
Ngahuia: We do, I really enjoy conversing with Holly on a fashion level, it’s more playful. I always enjoy the effort she puts into her outfits and am constantly giving her props. I think both of us genuinely enjoy fashion and talking about it!
Holly Rose: Definitely! I think we have similar but different styles. I’ve always thought Nga wears epic outfits so it’s always fun to be able to discuss where we shop and who we are inspired by.
Holly Rose and Ngahuia wear Kate Sylvester coats, $799 each.
What words sum up your journey in fashion?
Ngahuia: Support; Alignment; Got your back; Creation; Growth; Beersies; Whanau; New York.
Holly Rose: Support; Challenges; Love; Whanau; New York; Growth; Achievements; Creativity; Beers; Fun!
Ngahuia and Holly Rose wear Jimmy D slip dresses, $495 each.
How important is travel to you, whether it be local or international?
Ngahuia: It’s important to me. Internationally when we can, for education around other cultures, food, way of life. Local travel for me needs to be an all the time thing. I have always had a love for exploring my own country, ever since I could drive!
Holly Rose: It’s funny because I didn't realise how important local and international travel was to me until the option became unavailable, but it's made me treasure the experiences I've had in the past and look forward to the future. I love the aspects of travel where you get to experience something unlike what you're accustomed to. Travelling around NZ also fills me with such joy, we're so lucky to have such an awesome backyard to explore!
What does the idea of 'home' mean to you?
Ngahuia: I remember being stuck in Dubai airport once coming home from Europe, and my flight was cancelled. There were only two other flights to NZ via Australia, one landing in Wellington and the other in Christchurch. To me, it didn’t matter where I landed, and how I got home to Auckland, as long as I was on home soil. My homeland. Getting myself home was not a worry at all, as long as I was in Aotearoa. The motherland. I think that sums up what home means to me!
Holly Rose: Home to me is more the sense of where I feel at ease, and New Zealand, for the most part, has always been that for me. There's no better feeling than returning to the familiar comfort of NZ soil.
This was photographed during Alert Level 1.