The New Zealand Fashion Museum is celebrating its 12th anniversary with ‘To Fashion’, an interactive exhibition that allows individuals to speak about their clothing and personal appearances in a way that expresses their identity, culture and truth.
Launched on March 10, life-sized portraits of 12 diverse individuals have been put on display in an outdoor gallery at Auckland’s Britomart precinct, as part of the Auckland Arts Festival.
Visitors can scan a QR code on the images to hear the person introduce themselves, with all videos available on the Fashion Museum’s website.
Now, Aucklanders are being encouraged to share their own look. The museum hosted a street style experience on Saturday, with another session scheduled for this Sunday, March 27.
People are encouraged ‘to fashion’ an outfit that expresses who they are, and step in front of the lens of photographer Denise Baynham.
Curator and founder of the New Zealand Fashion Museum, Doris de Pont, believes fashion to be deeply personal and says that the street photography experience is to showcase “us”.
“Fashion is often portrayed as if it's an elite thing that only happens on the runway of Paris or Milan,” she says. “But that’s removing it from people. What fashion actually is, is how people use what they’re wearing to give form to their identity. It’s translating the runway to the real world.”
New Zealand Fashion Museum trustee and project lead Rose Jackson had expressed disappointment in the widespread cancellations of events, particularly New Zealand Fashion Week which had been set to run in February. She sees the photography experience as a good opportunity to “dress up and get outside for the first time in years”.
So with a pre-planned outfit that’s been in the closet waiting for this moment, I meandered my way down to Britomart to see what Aucklanders look like now.
Up first is someone who isn’t even an Aucklander but still gets called an ‘honourary JAFA’ by family members... It’s me!
“I’m wearing a mix of fast fashion and secondhand, with a bespoke graphic tee from va'a uoa [Village Arts Association at The University of Auckland]. The mix sums up my fashion journey.
I used to wear whatever was trending, but would always leave the shop feeling a little disappointed when things didn’t fit as well as I imagined.
Then I started op-shopping. The options were limited in Rotorua, but it meant I had to be creative. Through many years of trial and error (emphasis on the error), I got to explore my personal style and cultivate an image I was proud of.
Now I wear whatever I want, whenever I want!
It's been a very empowering journey trying to find my style - I don't think I'm quite there yet, but I'm having fun figuring it out.”
“I’m out brunching and shopping on a Saturday. Today I’m wearing a Trelise Cooper coat, a handbag made by me, a jumpsuit by Karen Walker and sneakers by Charlotte Olympia x Puma.”
“I don’t have a fashion influence that looks like me. There aren’t many people of colour in the alternative scene for me to look up to. So while it’s sad there’s also a lot of liberty there. I control the narrative, I put things on that look good and feel even better.
Like now, I’m wearing dirty black jeans that haven’t been washed weeks, scuffed dress shoes and a vape necklace that looks like a fashion statement but is mostly for practicality.
I don’t think it’s normal to dress without an agenda. It’s always about making a statement. Right?”
Lay-On Le and Phong Do
They/ Them, She/ Her, He/ Him
“I’m an arts lover, movie-goer, sourdough baker, and one for all things beautiful and fun. I’m wearing an Andrea & Joen linen jumpsuit and a Rebecca Taylor tweed jacket.
My hubby is a banker, greens grower, and Tolkien enthusiast. He's wearing a Tommy Hilfiger t-shirt, jeans, and R. M. Williams boots.”
“I typically wear clothing for its practicality rather than a fashion statement.”
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
I am a person, a person, a person.
“I am tangata whenua and a wahine toa. I am also a great-grandmother and an uri of Te Tai Tokerau.
I hate being told things ‘don’t fit.’ If it doesn’t fit in one place who’s to say it doesn’t fit somewhere else? One time a top didn’t fit me, so I turned it into a hat!
I can’t live without glitter, and I’m at my happiest when I get to play dress up. I get dressed at least 5 times a day. Clothes are an expression, and today I’m wearing my contemporary korowai, gifted on my birthday, and my favourite purple suit.”
“I’m an autistic animator. And I’m wearing a shirt and some earrings are from Dangerfield.”
“To me, fashion is your signature. It’s your statement to the world.”
“Absolutely everything in this photo is secondhand, from the bag down to the shoes and the scarf. Even the pearls on the shoes are repurposed from a secondhand necklace that broke.
To me, fashion and makeup are a means of self-expression. It's an art, and that's why I find so much joy in re-using and repurposing items in new and unexpected ways – even making or modifying things. I'm always thinking of new ‘wrong’ ways to wear items.
Fashion is political as the body and personhood are political; it can be used to express values, as a means of social currency, or a rejection of those.
To me, fashion is a calling-card for like-minded people. Those that get it, get it, and those that don't, don't!”
Annah Pickering & Emile Cowan
Annah (left): “I am my signature style and today’s theme is: Pacific Island leopard on a mission.
I don’t prescribe to cookie cutter images of perfection, and I wear clothes with diversity in mind – diversity in size and gender. I wear men’s rings and have signature purple lips. Embrace your flair.”
Emile: “I love being an individualist. I have an androgynous style, and today I’m wearing an outfit inspired by the Caribbean Creole style.
“I use fashion to express. I gain a lot of confidence when I dress up, and it makes me feel empowered, creative and bold. In my spare time I mock up dress patterns and design clothes. Today I’m wearing a Guess camera bag, constellation print skirt from Zara and boots from Therapy.”
The New Zealand Fashion Museum is hosting a second street style photography experience this Sunday. To take part, wear your favourite ensemble and turn up to Takutai Square in Auckland’s Britomart on Sunday March 27 between 10am – 1pm. All COVID protocols and safety measures apply.
This is a Public Interest Journalism funded role through NZ On Air