Fashion Quarterly - - Career Women -

Lec­turer Le­ica John­son, 48, and se­nior lec­tur­ers Sharon Evans-Mikel­lis, 55, Lisa McEwan, 55, and Linda Jones, 66, are key play­ers in Auck­land Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy’s

fash­ion de­sign pro­gramme. With sev­eral decades of de­sign and teach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence be­tween them, they’re au­thor­i­ties on de­sign

in­tegrity, which is as ev­i­dent in their own im­pec­ca­ble sar­to­rial choices as it is in the way

they in­spire the next gen­er­a­tion of tal­ent.


LISA: Prior to be­com­ing an aca­demic, I’d spent 26 years work­ing as a de­signer and pat­tern­maker in the New Zealand fash­ion in­dus­try. When the 2008 global fi­nan­cial cri­sis hit, many of the re­main­ing firms that were still man­u­fac­tur­ing in New Zealand de­cided that in or­der to com­pete in the glob­alised fash­ion mar­ket, they needed to pro­duce off­shore. Com­pa­nies were re­struc­tured, and as a re­sult I de­cided to go into ed­u­ca­tion — some­thing that had al­ways been an as­pi­ra­tion. I’m now in my 10th year at AUT.

LINDA: My de­sign and teach­ing ca­reer started af­ter grad­u­at­ing from art school at the be­gin­ning of the ’70s. I worked in Lon­don as a fash­ion de­signer/il­lus­tra­tor for numer­ous fash­ion com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing my own, and this, com­bined with teach­ing, con­tin­ued through to the late ’90s, which is when I moved to New Zealand. I was in­vited to join the AUT fash­ion teach­ing staff not long af­ter ar­riv­ing in Auck­land. The cur­rent fo­cus of my de­sign prac­tice is rain­coats.

SHARON: I have been a de­signer since I left art school in the UK in 1985, worked in all ar­eas of the fash­ion and knitwear in­dus­try, had my own busi­ness and taught fash­ion and tex­tile de­sign in New Zealand and the UK.

LE­ICA: On re­turn­ing to lec­tur­ing in Feb­ru­ary 2015, I knew I wanted to work in a cre­ative en­vi­ron­ment with peo­ple of like mind, and I had briefly worked with Sharon and her hus­band [AUT se­nior lec­turer An­dreas Mikel­lis] when I first came to

New Zealand from the UK, so I knew [at AUT] I’d be in good hands.


LE­ICA: True cloth­ing de­sign is an art, a craft and an act of self-ex­pres­sion. This group def­i­nitely val­ues de­sign in­tegrity and au­then­tic­ity. Work­ing ini­tially for my­self in the UK, and then as a com­mer­cial de­signer in New Zealand and the US, I’m fo­cused on work­ing with com­pa­nies with an eth­i­cal and sus­tain­able ethos.

LISA: I’m a firm be­liever in slow fash­ion, so I wear the same pieces for years — old is the new black! I like to sup­port in­de­pen­dent de­sign­ers, so my key pieces are from

New Zealan­ders and Aus­tralians such as Sherie Muijs and Masayo Ya­suki. I also wear some of my own de­signs and vin­tage Ja­panese pieces.

LE­ICA: I ap­pre­ci­ate many dif­fer­ent de­sign­ers for many dif­fer­ent rea­sons, so my favourites can change from week to week, but this week I love Vete­ments’ AW17 col­lec­tion. I of­ten find my­self look­ing very aus­tere in a ‘turn of the 20th cen­tury school teacher’ way, with a hint of clergy — in a floor-length dress, a de­cent coat and black Margiela lace-ups, which I swap for Birken­stocks dur­ing the week­end.

LINDA: I own key pieces from in­ter­na­tional de­signer la­bels, but I also take great plea­sure in wear­ing clothes from ex-stu­dents, in­clud­ing emerg­ing de­sign­ers Joseph Yen from Tür and his part­ner Christo­pher Dun­can the weaver, Glenn Yung­nickel’s beau­ti­fully crafted shirts and any­thing from Ni­cola Luey’s crazy brico­lage col­lec­tion.

The rest of my wardrobe I make my­self.

SHARON: My favourite de­sign­ers at the mo­ment are Si­mone Rocha, Hen­rik Vib­skov, Yo­hji Ya­mamoto and JW An­der­son. For work I need com­fort­able clothes for crawl­ing around un­der knit­ting ma­chines, and flat shoes for long days stand­ing on con­crete floors. Luck­ily, work­ing at an art school

I can get away with a polka-dot dress and Chuck Tay­lors most days, and be­cause I live on Wai­heke I can get away with the same polka-dot dress and gum­boots dur­ing the week­end.

LISA: My week­end look is re­laxed — T-shirt, hoodie, drop-crotch jersey pants and sneak­ers. It sounds pretty generic, but ev­ery piece is con­sid­ered. The drop-crotch pants were devel­oped from a se­ries of de­signs we did for a col­lab­o­ra­tive art in­stal­la­tion, and I love their drape. My cur­rent sta­ple hoodie is from AS Colour — great fab­ri­ca­tion and fit. I have an eclec­tic col­lec­tion of T-shirts, from Comme des Garçons and Yo­hji Ya­mamoto, to hand-me-downs from my son. And my sneak­ers are ve­gan-leather high-tops from Matt & Nat. I have them in four colours.

LINDA: I only wear clothes that I en­joy wear­ing. That is to say I don’t have a ‘work uni­form’ and my style of dress doesn’t change into some­thing else dur­ing the week­end. Hav­ing been in­volved in fash­ion for a long time, I greatly ad­mire the work of a num­ber of de­sign­ers, but I think the one who con­sis­tently in­spires me is Yo­hji Ya­mamoto — I find his work and de­sign phi­los­o­phy emo­tion­ally af­fect­ing.


LINDA: Each of us val­ues fair­ness.

LISA: And hon­esty. And stay­ing cog­nisant of the big pic­ture, rather than get­ting caught up in the minu­tiae.

LE­ICA: A large por­tion of the group is orig­i­nally from the UK. Con­se­quently, when events hap­pen con­cern­ing the UK, there’s an in­nate un­der­stand­ing. When David Bowie passed away, I called Linda, and we shared sto­ries, rem­i­nisc­ing about my child­hood and her youth and the im­pact he had on us at those times.

LISA: Linda and I of­ten share a ride home. It’s a great time to de­brief on the day at work, but also to dis­cuss fam­ily life and deeper philo­soph­i­cal stuff.

SHARON: We care about one an­other and sup­port each other when sup­port is needed, whether it be with work, life or fam­ily is­sues.

LISA: As with fam­i­lies, we just know we have each other’s backs. But also, the fam­ily that plays to­gether stays to­gether. I have fond mem­o­ries of a great Ja­panese din­ner with lash­ings of sake and much hi­lar­ity.

Let’s just say there’s no point cry­ing over spilt sake.

LE­ICA: I love the wit and hu­mour of the group, and the au­then­tic­ity. Ev­ery­one gen­uinely cares about what they do.

SHARON: We have a laugh to­gether — you can’t un­der­es­ti­mate the power of that.


LE­ICA: Vivienne West­wood for flip­ping her fin­ger to the es­tab­lish­ment, and for her on­go­ing cam­paigns around cli­mate change.

LINDA: I would very much ap­pre­ci­ate it if Yo­hji Ya­mamoto would con­sider seam­lessly join­ing our team.

LISA: Ber­lin-based sis­ters Anja and

San­dra Umann, whose la­bel Umasan of­fers an­drog­y­nous yet cul­ti­vated Ja­pane­sein­spired de­signs in cool, monochro­matic fab­ri­ca­tions that re­flect their firmly held views on sustainability and an­i­mal rights. Style with sub­stance.

SHARON: I’d love to have been able to work with Ray Eames or Lu­ci­enne Day. Both were great de­sign­ers and teach­ers and I think both strong fe­male role mod­els.

The aca­demics (from left): Sharon Evans-Mikel­lis, Le­ica John­son, Lisa McEwan and Linda Jones.

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