Rachel Mills on ethical fashion and debuting at NZFW 2017

Rachel Mills

Designer Rachel Mills. Image supplied.

It’s fair to say New Zealand has a particularly talented crop of young designers now several seasons in and making a name for themselves such as Auckland designer, Rachel Mills. She impressed us with her off-schedule presentation at the end of New Zealand Fashion Week 2016 that showed remarkable poise and thoughtfulness with her self-assured, contemporary collection. This year she debuted on the official NZFW 2017 schedule with a creative installation that perfectly showcased her considered take on womenswear that had subtle 80s influences.

We caught up with Rachel to find out more about what it’s like to run a young fashion label, the importance of ethical fashion and how her NZFW show came together.

How would you describe your brand and how is it influenced by your personal style?
I would describe my brand as being a mixture of my personal style, championing my own morals. My personal style is a mixture of vintage garments, and those I have collected along the way working in fashion, but what I wear has to be comfortable. I find that if there is a vintage garment that I end up wearing to death, I will set out to make something just as wonderful, and find a way to work that into my collection. I don’t believe in making clothes just for the sake of building a collection. I would much rather work on the pieces I really want to be producing, and if that means there are no short skirts in the range it’s no big deal. If there is one thing I would like my brand to achieve over it’s lifetime, it would be to have a positive affect on the way we consume things. I want the garments to be loved and cherished for more than just a season, and for customers to understand everything that has gone into that one piece, including the people who have helped to bring it to life.

Who would you love to collaborate with locally or internationally?
I think the New Zealand creative industry is in a really exciting place at the moment. There’s a lot of local people doing really great things in film, photography and music. This past year I was lucky enough to design a Rachel Mills range of jewellery, that is coming out soon, with Maeve from Herasaabi. I love the idea of continuing to work and collaborate with New Zealanders doing great things.

Rachel Mills

Rachel Mills’ NZFW 2017 presentation. Images by James Yang.

Which music/film/art inspires or influences your brand?
I try not to get too bogged down with making sure my brand references are relevant, known pieces of culture, rather it is more of a mood or feeling that I am trying to create. It may very well be just one series of images I have come across that I am really taken by, which then leads to looking at more work of the same artist or others they have collaborated with then one thing leads to another.

What are the challenges of having a young label and how do you deal with them?
The biggest challenge is having to make so many decisions alone. I have been working with a business mentor the past six months or so, which has been extremely helpful just knowing there is someone there to lead me in the right direction.

Rachel Mills

Rachel Mills working in her studio.

Why did you decide to make your NZFW solo debut this year and what influenced your decision?
Following on from my independent presentation last year, it seemed like the next step. I look up to brands such as Wynn Hamlyn and Harmen Grubisa, who have grown so much in the past couple of years, and have managed to gather a very loyal NZ following.

What has been the most exciting thing about putting on a fashion week show so far?
The most exciting thing was probably hearing people’s response from the presentation. I loved that people weren’t afraid of the fact that it wasn’t a runway show and really embraced it by sharing the beautiful photos they took.

Rachel Mills

Rachel Mills’ NZFW 2017 presentation. Images by James Yang.

Who makes up your core team helping you put your NZFW presentation together?
Honestly, the core team is just myself and whoever I can rope in to help. I have a couple of amazingly dedicated interns at the moment, who are so keen to learn what it takes. On top of that, I pull in the help of my parents, my boyfriend and friends. I have met some really talented people lately who have been keen to get on board because they like and understand what the brand is – Sophie Blazey has put together the film that was shown at the presentation, Angus Muir has helped me out with lighting, Connor Nestor has undertaken the soundtrack with his record label A Label Called Success, my mum and dad have been keen to jump in wherever they can. I have even pulled in friends who have been much more confident with a chainsaw than I am. I’m also very lucky to have my boyfriend, Asher, on call to talk through things, and the team at Showroom 22 have been so helpful to bounce ideas off, and to show me the ropes when I’m unsure.

If you could have anyone model on the runway for your brand who would it be?
I don’t think runway shows are for us, but never say never. I’d want India Menuez. We’ve just finished watching the tv show, I Love Dick and loved the way she moves.

Once fashion week was over how did you unwind?
With a lovely dinner out with my parents and boyfriend. These are the people who have dedicated so much of their time over the past couple of months to help out so it was nice to be able to celebrate it as a family.

Images supplied.

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