Otago Polytechnic

Otago Polytechnic Fashion Design graduate Melissa Coull-Herewini hopes her New Zealand Fashion Week 2019 collection will shine a light on issues of race and identity.

Melissa is busily completing her collection, “SHE’S GOT RIC”, which refers to “racial identity crisis” and explores growing up “mixed-race in a predominately white culture”, Melissa explains.

Melissa’s work will be shown as part of the Graduate Selection programme at New Zealand’s showcase fashion event, to be held in Auckland from 26 August-1 September.

“The garments are a reflection of contrasting and colliding cultures,” Melissa says.

“The story of ‘RIC’ is told through fabric and colour. The combination of colours and textures creates a strong contrast, creating a visual story and a sense of being overwhelmed. They are all woven in together to reflect my experience in being mixed-race.”

For example, one of Melissa’s signature collection pieces is a draped top made of knitted parka nylon.

“It took 75 hours to cut strips of parka nylon and silk lurex, put them all back together and knit them into one garment.

“And my hero piece is a 10-metre fluorescent yellow tulle gown, which is sewn together using shirring elastic. The shapes are completely free-form and the dress stretches and bounces as the wearer moves,” Melissa says. 

“The collection was inspired by a letter, “Growing Up As A ‘Half-Cast’ in New Zealand”, by a woman called Lou Banks, who explored her own experiences in growing up mixed-race. It was something I really related to.”

Melissa is excited about the exposure New Zealand Fashion Week 2019 offers.

“I think it is important to know yourself that your work is valid first, before other people voice their own opinion of your work.

It is nice to have NZFW supporting young designers, especially in a time where the New Zealand fashion industry isn’t necessarily booming.

“To come from such a small town (Stratford, Taranaki) and humble beginnings and to be given this sort of validation is really amazing.”

Melissa enrolled at Otago Polytechnic in 2014, completing a Certificate in Fashion (Level 4) then embarking on a Bachelor of Design (Fashion).

Having graduated last year, she has since started a small label with her sister called DOUGLAS.

“It is named after our late father. Being based in Stratford we hope to help bring some business back to a small community. We want to focus on inclusiveness and also sustainability.”

Read more about our Design (Fashion) programmes


Published on 14 Aug 2019

Orderdate: 14 Aug 2019
Expiry: 31 Oct 2019