Talk­ing Fash­ion with a De­sign Guru

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“It’s like ‘oh my God’…like when trench coats first came out. Ev­ery­one was do­ing trench coat. I lived in an area where there’s just shop af­ter shop and one Saturday, ev­ery sin­gle win­dow had trench coats in it.” Which is why Aus­tralian fash­ion icon, Ni­cholas Hux­ley, is em­phatic about how lack of cre­ativ­ity af­fects the fash­ion in­dus­try and fi­nan­cial re­turns to in­di­vid­ual de­sign­ers. Hux­ley has been head teacher at the Fash­ion De­sign Stu­dio at TAFE NSW since 1990. He’s had a ster­ling ca­reer as an artist and de­signer and is re­spon­si­ble for the suc­cess­ful fash­ion tra­jec­to­ries of many Aussie de­sign­ers. Among the many ac­tresses he has per­son­ally dressed is Hol­ly­wood movie star, Ni­cole Kid­man. Hux­ley was in Fiji re­cently to co-fa­cil­i­tate a hands-on fash­ion work­shop to pre­pare lo­cal de­sign­ers for pro­fes­sional fash­ion shows. Fiji’s tal­ented cadre of de­sign­ers may have come a long way since the early days of the lo­cal fash­ion in­dus­try and many had stamped their mark with cre­ations that are un­afraid, cre­ative and cul­tur­ally in­spired. But Hux­ley was straight­for­ward about the copy­ing in the mar­ket that kills cre­ativ­ity and style. To com­pete glob­ally lo­cal de­sign­ers had to think out­side the box and cre­ate de­signs that were uniquely their own. “Ev­ery in­ter­na­tional de­signer in the world is fa­mous be­cause they have some­thing dif­fer­ent about what they do, whether it be Chanel, Ver­sace or any­body. They have very dis­tinc­tive looks,” he said. He be­lieves that to con­tinue the leaps and bounds al­ready forged by the Fiji fash­ion in­dus­try, there needs to be a qual­ity ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tion where fash­ion can be taught and stu­dents of fash­ion can learn. “Ba­si­cally, I think one of the is­sues in Fiji is the fact that there is no de­sign school – which is why I am here. So what hap­pens is these guys (lo­cal de­sign­ers) leave school and re­ally want to do de­sign, they love the idea of fash­ion and cloth­ing but there’s ac­tu­ally nowhere for them to go.” “I also think lo­cal de­sign­ers need to open their minds… the only rea­son some­one will be­come fa­mous is if they have a point of dif­fer­ence. You do not have to think too hard to name the de­signer when we open mag­a­zines. Peo­ple know who they are be­cause their de­signs are uniquely dif­fer­ent.” Hux­ley said while there was cre­ativ­ity in lo­cal de­signs, de­sign­ers also needed to look at de­tail­ing, mix­ing el­e­ments and other as­pects of de­sign they may not be aware of. “There are other ways of cre­at­ing things to hope­fully get them more ap­pre­ci­ated. De­sign­ers need to re­al­ize it’s not just hibis­cus on a mumu but it’s what else you can do with it or add to it to make it more in­ter­est­ing. “You need to make peo­ple take no­tice of your de­signs and

re­al­ize there’s a great in­fra­struc­ture in Fiji – that you are do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent with their cul­ture in fash­ion.” Draw­ing ex­am­ples from back home, Hux­ley said de­sign­ers should not get “stuck in a theme”. “I find it very frus­trat­ing when we copy from over­seas in Aus­tralia. For ex­am­ple, you go into a shop some­where in Bondi Junc­tion or some­where in Syd­ney city and find that ev­ery shop’s got frills in the win­dow. “On the trench coat thing he ex­plained: “So you pick one trench coat and all the other shops lose out be­cause that type of gar­ment was the same ev­ery­where. If you did trench coats with flo­rals or trench coats with evening fabrics and al­low a choice , then it makes things more in­ter­est­ing.” Hux­ley said de­sign­ers could look at their own cul­ture for in­spi­ra­tion and adapt de­signs to suit the needs of mod­ern men and women. “I try to teach my stu­dents to, as much as pos­si­ble, be cre­ative and in­no­va­tive and think on their own. When you fo­cus on cul­tures, you never have to worry about themes be­cause all coun­tries, in one way or an­other, have typ­i­cally won­der­ful de­tail­ing that makes them ex­clu­sively unique.” “Copy­ing can re­duce the qual­ity of prod­ucts. It’s de­mean­ing to the cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion of the per­son who did the orig­i­nal de­sign. That is why de­tail­ing and de­sign are so im­por­tant in mak­ing you look dif­fer­ent from the rest” “So it’s good to still have your her­itage, which is very im­por­tant, but you do have to adapt these clothes so they could be func­tional in a west­ern way. “I go to In­dian fash­ion pa­rades a lot be­cause I am in­volved with a lot of de­sign schools. They have these fab­u­lous shows that are all gor­geous but when the gar­ments come out, it’s just sari af­ter sari af­ter sari.” “You are us­ing all these beau­ti­ful fabrics but my God you’re still do­ing it strictly tra­di­tional. You’d love to be able to see half of the show with sari and the sec­ond half the sari be­com­ing mod­ern so that ac­tresses could wear them to the Academy Awards us­ing the beau­ti­ful fabrics.” “You must cre­ate a de­sign that has a point of dif­fer­ence mak­ing it look fab­u­lous. A lot of de­sign­ers close their minds to west­ern­iz­ing cul­tural de­signs.”

Hux­ley’s fi­nal word? “Most im­por­tant of all: you have a lot of fun in what you do, if you don’t then change your ca­reer.”

As­pir­ing fash­ion de­sign­ers at the fash­ion work­shop in Suva co-fa­cil­i­tated by Hux­ley.

Aus­tralian fash­ion icon, Ni­cholas Hux­ley dur­ing an in­ter­view in Suva.

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