Flax Tutu (1994)

I was studying fashion at Bowerman School of Design (Wellington, New Zealand) when i had the impulse to enter the highly acclaimed, Benson & Hedges Awards!

I was around 19/20 years at the time clashing with my tutor who wouldn’t SHOW me how to sew a pocket but instead whined for met o read my notes…unbeknown to her, my reading skills were below average hehe.

Anyhoo, i filled in the entry form with a check for the right amount (cant remember how much) and shat my pants cause now it was ALL ON…to make things more nerve wrecking, i decided to enter two garments to better my chances after hearing that designers are REALLY lucky to even be nominated for one!

For the next few weeks i had thought of a few ideas here and there and only one entry was solid for my “Young Designer” category and the other one was just a blank in my mind so i said to myself, just let it be and it’ll come to me.

The day before the garments were due i still had nothing for my “Avant Garde” Category until I was sitting on my bed in my 10 May Road, Oriental Parade apartment flooded with inspiration and had an impulse to open my closet door to find a roll of Samoan mats (Falalili’i) made of flax.

I then started making a pattern with a fitted corset (during my obsession with the great “Vivienne Westwood” days) dress with a “Tutu” effect. Then i started tracing out the pattern on the mats with pen and sewing a “Stay-Stitch” on the outline before I started cutting so the fray was under control.

Then i started sewing all the panels together, stitching every seam down before i started sewing black bias binding on all the edges creating a smoother finish and was also a great casing for the wire that i wanted to thread through the hemline to give it the fluid shape I needed and finally, I punched some ilets in the center back to lace up…NOW, my second entry was complete.

The following morning I hand delivered my two garments and kept EVERYTHING crossed for the next 3 months anticipating “The Letter” in the mail with the verdict.

To cut a long story short, both my garments got nominated (My tutors one didn’t oops) went to the show and i didn’t win.

BUT what i learnt that night was, “IT ISN’T ABOUT WINNING, IT IS MORE ABOUT MAKING A POSITIVE IMPACT (WINNING IS THE CREAM ON TOP)”…i didn’t get it at the time but it wasn’t until I went shoe shopping during winter one day and the shop assistant asked me what i did?

I told her that I was a fashion designer and she asked if i entered Benson & Hedges? I told her I did! and she asked me which one was my one? so i described it to her and she screamed saying that her and her whole family were jumping up and down when that garment came out!!

I knew then, that I wanted to make a positive impact with what i love doing in life…CREATING!

The Benson & Hedges Awards 1994

"Flax Tutu"

Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, NZ

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