Designer Amanda Mathews from KoiNo. Image supplied.
Amanda Mathews founded inclusive womenswear label KoiNo in her hometown of Hamilton in 2017. Amanda worked in the fashion industry herself for several years and taught fashion design before deciding to launch her own label that offers sizes 8 – 26/28. KoiNo is proudly made to order in New Zealand with a quick turnaround time of 2 – 3 weeks which means there is minimal wastage and each piece is ordered because it is wanted and will be worn. Contemporary in style, KoiNo designs transcend seasons and trends with every garment made of quality materials and carefully crafted so it lasts for years to come.
We caught up with Amanda to find out more about her brand, what inspires her and what you would never catch her wearing!
Tell us about your latest collection/pieces?
I design each KoiNo piece with longevity in mind, not only should the construction of each piece last wear after wear and year after year but the designs themselves are carefully considered to not date quickly. We’re still selling most of the designs we launched with nearly three years ago. Each year/season/when it occurs to me I add styles to the KoiNo collection, all with the same design sensibilities in mind.
What made you become a designer?
The lack of size inclusive clothing that aligned with my style and personal values led me to start KoiNo in 2017.
When I was a teenager my mum took me shopping for some pants. Keep in mind that this was the 90s when you read that I found a ridiculous red and white super flared pair that I loved at a branded store, they seemed quite expensive to my young self, but mum agreed to buy them for me! I was so happy as I grabbed a pair (the largest size on the rail) and popped off to the changing room. And then I put them on, at least I tried to put them on… they didn’t fit. Disheartened we left the store and didn’t buy any pants that day, we did however pick up some red and white fabric. I spent that weekend making myself a pair of flared red pants with a wide white stripe down the side, and they fit. I’ve been designing and making my own, plus sized clothes ever since. I went on to study fashion design at Massey University in the early 2000s, worked in the fashion industry in Wellington for five years before moving to Hamilton on to teach fashion design. In 2017 I went to part time teaching to start KoiNo.
My personal style and values on ethics and sustainability have developed over the years. I am saddened by the dwindling NZ clothing manufacturing industry and increase of imports of fast fashion. In 2013 the Rana Plaza collapse exposed the horror of dangerous working conditions of a lot of the fashion industry, alongside stories of child labour and low wages. The documentary The True Cost also shaped my ideas of not only terrible working conditions but the mass hysteria of buying more and more clothes and our over consumerist society. Fashion is often wasteful and inconsiderate, I choose to go against this.
Looks from KoiNo’s current range.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by the places I go, the landscapes, the people, the food. In particular, Japan and New Zealand itself.
I’m also inspired by the garment making process. I strive to use my pattern making skills to make well fitting garments from patterns that use little to no waste. I love working with natural fibres (cotton, linen, merino) and let the fabric itself inspire my designs.
Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
My style is inspired by contemporary Japanese design, simple with unique touches. I like to wear comfortable, simple pieces with a basic elegance, and contemporary style. I seek to wear classics that last year after year.
I design clothes that I want to wear. If I feel like there’s something missing in my wardrobe I’ll design and make it for KoiNo.
What is your all-time favourite purchase?
A Deadly Ponies tote bag I purchased in 2012. I’ve loaded it to the brim for teaching and travel throughout the last 8 years and it is still going strong and looking good.
What wardrobe item should everyone invest in?
A comfortable black dress. It can be dressed up or down and is an outfit all on its own.
Do you have a style rule you always obey?
Comfort, if what I’m wearing is not comfortable I’m not going to have a good day.
Looks from KoiNo’s current range.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Every time I have a customer express joy in finding clothing she loves in her size I get a rush of happiness, this is why I do what I do.
What can’t you live without?
I’m yet to find out; though my ability to function without coffee is questionable.
Finish this sentence – You would never catch me wearing…
Crocs (though I hesitate to say this as I’ve learned to never say never).