Emerging Couture designers to debut at NZ Fashion Week

With New Zealand Fashion Week just around the corner, there are four emerging designers who will be making their NZFW debut in the New Gen Emerging Couture show next week. Each one has chosen the craft of couture which means many hours of hand sewing and machine sewing to create beautiful garments that are detailed works of art.

We caught up with Judy Gao, Cecilia Kang, Ruscoe Bustenera-Kirby and Srishti Kaur to find out more about each of their labels, the process of making modern couture and what we can expect to see on the fashion week runway.

Emerging Couture

Designer Judy Gao (left) and gown by Judy Gao (right).

Judy Gao

What made you become a designer and how did you go about achieving it?
I have always dreamed about being a fashion designer. It’s a way of expressing myself and having a creative outlet. I just love how fashion can transform someone’s confidence and that’s something that has helped me grow into a more confident person.

I knew that I wanted to pursue fashion and despite studying a different degree at university, I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. I persisted, believed in my work, and put everything I have into this.

How would you describe your brand?
Judy Gao Couture is really about empowering young women. My gowns are elegant, sophisticated, edgy, and sexy. They’re all one-of-a-kind which will make any young woman feel amazing on a special occasion.

How do you define modern couture and what does it mean to you?
For me, modern couture is about pushing the boundaries using different silhouettes and techniques. It’s not necessarily beautiful in the conventional sense. Instead, it challenges people’s idea of what couture can be.

What is the process like for making couture garments and how long does it take you?
I start off with an idea in my head and then start making it. I don’t usually sketch because the design changes as I progress. Which is great because you never really know what will look good until the gown has come to life. This process can take as little as a week, up to a few months if I step back from the project.

What can we expect from your NZFW collection?
This is my first collection being showcased on the runway so I want to make a great first impression. Every piece is special and has a lot of detail and heart put into it.

What are your plans for your brand and where do you see it heading?
In the short term, I would love to open a store so it’s easier to share my work with customers.

In the long term, I want to take my brand overseas and I can really see it becoming global and dressing the red carpet. I get so emotional thinking about it!

Emerging Couture

Designer Cecilia Kang (left) and gown by Cecilia Kang (right).

Cecilia Kang

What made you become a designer and how did you go about achieving it?
I am a male to female transsexual woman and while I was going through the transition phase to discover who I was, this was the period where I got interested in fashion and wanted to become a fashion designer around 2007. I got my inspiration and influence from my fellow gay, crossdresser, transsexual friends how they uniquely dress themselves and portray differently from others. I consider myself different and unique and I always wanted to try out and figuring out new style for my fashion. That’s when I started researching about different concepts, silhouettes, figures and looks for all sizes of women and where all my self-study fashion career began. This included pattern making, cutting, drawing, sewing and hand stitching. After seeing the masterpiece or finished garment, that’s where I found my joy and happiness from it. While self-studying, I used a lot of resources on the internet, pattern papers, fashion books and mannequins to support and create my inspiration come to life. Also, lots of comparison of everyday tops, pants and dresses we wear to find answers. I create my pieces by myself from scratch to create magical garments through my vision.

How would you describe your brand?
My brand is all about sense of uniqueness, the silhouettes, elegance and making that one of a kind high-end garment through my visionary. Constantly experimenting with different fabrics to create distinctive innovate looks to satisfy client’s needs. Being able to connect with new or existing clients through both online and offline are vital to the brand. Furthermore, it is all about celebrating diversity, uniqueness of our individuality in our society and accepting who we are as the citizens of this world.

How do you define modern couture and what does it mean to you?
One of the great things about modern couture is the magnificent workmanship that goes into create amazing one of a kind art pieces and being able to design for each customer in the most unique way possible with excellent quality. Each piece is handcrafted with immaculate detail with a story telling that is created from scratch and bringing designer’s vision to life. Modern couture means that it is about one’s creativity, make something unique for our clients that they cannot experience or find anywhere else.

What is the process like for making couture garments and how long does it take you?
The process of making a couture garment is very special, enjoyable and very personal to me. It is time where I can let my mind free and bring in all that magical thoughts and creativity come to life. I tend to visualize the silhouette and the style of the garment in my head first before I sketch.  It is also bringing out that artistic value you have as a designer while making that distinctive couture garments. For me it is about using high quality fabrics, laces, overlays, embellishments and intricate details. Seeing couture garments come to life, it is the best part of my life when it’s completed. Generally, it takes me about 3 to 4 weeks to create a couture garment or even more than one month and long hours because I do the whole process of making and designing by myself and I want every part to be perfect so it looks magnificent at the end.

What can we expect from your NZFW collection?
For my collection for New Zealand Fashion Week 2018, you can expect a high influence in the natural world on my garments which has lot of different mixture of fabrics, feathery details glittery sequins with sophisticated designs and a magical touch to each piece. There will be also different silhouettes, elegance and feminine style of new couture at New Zealand Fashion Week.

What are your plans for your brand and where do you see it heading?
My objectives and goals are to develop and grow my brand focusing towards constructing a specific clientele base both online and offline as long-term commitment. In two years’, time, I see myself involved in all major fashion weeks including New York, Paris, London and Milan fashion weeks, dressing and collaborating with high profile people and celebrities therefore, I see myself as a well-known expert couture designer both in New Zealand and overseas in five years’ time.

Emerging Couture

Designer Ruscoe Bustenera-Kirby (left) and outfits by Ruscoe Bustenera-Kirby (right).

Ruscoe Bustenera

What made you become a designer and how did you go about achieving it?
Creativity has been my passion and the core of my make up since I was a child. However, growing up in the small town of Lucena in the Philippines, with the life status I had, following your aspirations and your big dreams seemed quite far-fetched. Things like going to a fashion school would cost you and arm and a leg. My priority had to be on earning money to be able to support myself and survive.

Looking back on my earlier life as a gay man from a small town, I realise that I was the fashionista of the group. I would try making different fashion statements, like wearing hats, accessories or interesting clothes. Most people would think of them as weird or funny. During visits to my friends, I would turn bed sheets and curtains into long gowns and throw a runway for them. I would even try on my sister’s “Maria Clara” yellow ball gown. It was the puffiest skirt I’d ever seen.

It’s not until I moved to New Zealand in 2011 that I realised my passion for fashion design, because suddenly, aspirations and dreams seemed more achievable. It’s at the same time I started losing the most important people in my life, my mama, then my sister, then my nanay. They kept reminding me that life is short – too short.  During this time I also met my husband, Paul. He was my motivator and my number one fan. Little did I know that these events in my life would be the push that I was waiting for, and so, my journey began.

I enrolled myself into the New Zealand Academy of Fashion. I was a part-time student and worked during the day and studied during the night and on weekends. I successfully graduated my course and started my own brand. I wasted no time at all and commenced my first collection as soon as I graduated to tell the world of my brand. I was nervous, however people started noticing it and the feedback was incredibly encouraging – I became fearless. Doubts just suddenly turned into confidence – I just kept moving forward.

I auditioned for Project Runway and got into the final round but ended up not being cast. They said I needed more experience which was fair given I had only graduated a few months prior. However that didn’t break my spirits and encouraged me to want it more. I also started picking up clients here and there, and here I am now after two years of graduating from fashion school. I’m still at the start of the journey but I am enjoying every bit of it.

How would you describe your brand?
Ruscoe is a brand that believes the art of style and fashion knows no boundaries or limitations.  It brings life and joy. It brings hope, passion and emotion. It’s timeless couture. It’s “artfashion”.

How do you define modern couture and what does it mean to you?
Modern couture is unapologetically wrong but right. It challenges the norm, yet is perfectly timeless. It’s a marriage of classic, contemporary and the future.

What is the process like for making couture garments and how long does it take you?
It can take from three days to a week depending on the conceived idea. The process is slightly different for every garment. There are times where I have to go back to the first step, recreating the patterns again or even re-designing the whole thing because I wasn’t feeling it. There are other times where it just flows and next thing I know, it’s finished!

What can we expect from your NZFW collection?
Eclectic, quirky and edgy with texture, bold prints and movement.

The collection is called “Tres Marias”. Inspired by my family; ‘nanay-Lagrimas’, my ‘mama-Ressurreccion’ and ‘sister-Lady Orange’. The three most important women in my life. This is me showcasing their favourite silhouettes and their personalities. My nanay loved being in the church, my mama loved dancing and my sister was a born leader. So, I will be mixing up all of those elements to make “Tres Marias”.

Also, I dedicate this collection to my husband, Paul Andrew Kirby, who keeps pushing me and never gets tired of supporting me and dealing with my creative madness.

What are your plans for your brand and where do you see it heading?
My plan is to be a world-renowned brand for couture. Ruscoe will be one of the leading fashion names in the world. I will be showing at runways alongside all the great designers. I will create bespoke pieces for different famous artists and celebrities. They will feel fabulous. They will be calling my name on the red carpet.

Emerging Couture

Designer Srishti Kaur (left) and gown by Srishti Kaur (right).

Srishti Kaur 

What made you become a designer and how did you go about achieving it?
I watched my mother sew as far as memory serves, and I’ve always been fascinated by a sewing machine. As a child it was like magic to me. As I grew older I started to take sewing classes in school and with practice I got really good. The interest turned into a passion and with an immense gut feeling I decided to study Fashion Design. It was only a few years after graduating I found my true passion – gowns. Once I discovered that, there was no stopping me! I started offering a casual service of bespoke gowns on my social media and started getting a good response. It was a huge risk in the beginning because I wasn’t actually sure how to make gowns; I just knew I had to do everything possible to bring this new found passion into my life. And the most strategic way to do so was to put myself in the deep end and take on real clients – consisting of design briefs, deadlines and payments, in order to realize my true potential and the potential of the business model. I created a brand thereafter and have been creating exquisite bespoke bridal and evening couture gowns ever since.

How would you describe your brand?
Founded with the reverie of sophistication, elegance and luxury, Srishti Kaur Designs focuses on meticulously hand crafting bespoke bridal and evening couture gowns. Aiming to dress more than a woman’s unique figure, we aim to dress ideas and visions through the focus of a highly interactive service. Often balancing simple silhouettes with exquisite fabrics sourced from Asia, each gown is a result of a judicious process creating the ultimate experience of luxury.

How do you define modern couture and what does it mean to you?
Modern couture to me is a seamless marriage between historic craftsmanship, values and techniques that merge with the demands of faster production today. Couture in its true essence in the highest expression of luxury as it is purely customized to the clients’ measurements and internal requirements, where the designer carries a lot of responsibility by giving their client, the fabric and the design the utmost respect it deserves. Handling the garment more with your raw hands than with the machine is often necessary as there’s vital need of hand embroidery, beading or appliquéing, etc. to reach a level of exclusivity and execute the art of couture garments.

I employ modern couture techniques a lot– weather it be a collection or client orders, I often use exquisite embroidered fabrics, cut them out, re-create and re-arrange them as my own by using hand appliquéing techniques. So there’s still a large element of hand-work but not necessarily thread work embroidery from scratch, linking back to staying true to historic craftsmanship merged with the demands of faster fashion today.

What is the process like for making couture garments and how long does it take you?
Immaculately made and utterly precise, the process is long and often tiresome but always rewarding. Within my brand, I create a new design for each client, draft new patterns, source new fabrics, and create mock garments for fittings prior to creating the final gown. This process is the standard minimum work I do for every customer – consisting of anywhere between 20-50 hours per gown depending on design, fabric type and construction type, e.g. hand embroidery.

What can we expect from your NZFW collection?
Our latest collection ‘Ethereal Ecstasy’ is inspired by the idea of eternal love – an emotional trance-like state where one transforms itself into a new realm of beauty that feels out of this world. Balancing simple silhouettes with immaculate fabrics, the range consists of bridal and evening gowns. There are plunging necklines, capes and illusion driven appliqued hand embroidery to reach a euphoric level of beauty, elegance and drama.

What are your plans for your brand and where do you see it heading?
I would like to maintain a bespoke modeled brand where I cater for brides and evening wear for any occasion. I would like to maintain a high level of service which is intimate and exclusive. I would like SKD to be synonym with elegance in NZ. Ultimately, I’d like to be ‘irreplaceable’.

Images supplied.

Related Articles
Get the latest fashion news, advice, interviews and competitions to your inbox!

Pin It on Pinterest