Fashion Design Awards success paves the way for EIT students’ new brand

Ashford Thompson, a Bachelor of Creative Practice (Fashion) student at EIT, received a highly regarded award at the nationally recognized Hokonui Fashion Design Awards, a distinction he sees as a stepping stone towards the launch of its own brand.

Ashford (Ngāti Kahungunu), 30, is in his second year of bachelor’s degree at EIT’s IDEAschool, but he already sees a bright future. Ashford and his wife, Kelsi Thompson, who received a graduate degree in business (marketing) from EIT, aim to launch their own fashion line, Thompson Thompson Clothing, in December.

“We hope to launch our brand at the end of the year, but things are a bit on hold with COVID-19.”

Ashford is one of 20 Maori “fashion designers” participating in a mentorship program with Maori fashion designer Kiri Nathan. Kiri Nathan products are sought after around the world, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wearing the brand and celebrities like Barack and Michelle Obama, Meghan Duchess of Sussex and Beyonce owning KN products.

The creators of the mentoring program are planning to host a group parade in Auckland and the goal is to launch the new Thompson Thompson Clothing brand at this event.

It’s an exciting time for Ashford and Kelsi, who returned to Hawke’s Bay after eight years of working in fashion retail in Australia, just before the COVID-19 lockdowns last year.

It’s a decision the couple, from Hawke’s Bay, haven’t regretted.

Ashford is very clear on the clothes he wants to make and the designs his new line will focus on.

“We mainly create unisex products with an emphasis on sustainability and waste reduction throughout the creative process. This includes looking at cutting zero waste patterns and how we can just create less fabric scraps or even reuse them, ”he says.

“I have done quite a few pieces that also involve upcycling, which I did for my participation in the competition.”

This entry, at the prestigious Hokonui Fashion Design Awards in Gore in July, was for a menswear line and Ashford deliberately went for a unique style. This was captured in a photoshoot by second year design students from IDEAschool. It obviously worked, as Ashford received a tick that was much appreciated by the judges.

The Hokonui Fashion Design Awards, which celebrated their 32nd anniversary this year, are firmly established as a key event on the national fashion calendar and continue to attract nominations and interest from amateur fashion designers from across New Zealand. . Over the years, the jury has included Karen Walker, Nic Blanchet, Francis Hooper, Trelise Cooper, Kate Sylvester, Liz Findlay, Doris Du Pont and Margi Robertson (from NOM * d).

Ashford says: “My approach was to examine traditional ideas of gender dress codes and the difference between codes for men and women.

“So I made a men’s outfit with pants, a skirt, a corset and a blazer. Everything was made from materials that I had collected from the op shop. My jacket and pants were made from duvet covers, while the pleated skirt was made from an old sofa cover. The corset came from a curtain and a man’s shirt.

What made this competition more difficult was that Ashford was unable to adapt the outfit in person.

“We were sent a size requirement beforehand because part of the job was to tailor the outfit to the prescribed types and size guidelines. It is quite common for competitions to provide the models and we have to make sure that the items match them. “

His first degree, obtained nine years ago from Victoria University of Wellington, was in Art History and Ashford uses this knowledge to inform his approach when researching some of his concepts.

Another important aspect of his job is his Maori heritage, and he always reflects on his experience growing up.

“We have a different outlook on life, time, space and history and I think that still influences my approach to my designs and my design process. The Maori myth is something that has always fascinated me.

With his career set to be successful, Ashford also thanks his lecturers and tutors at EIT’s IDEAschool, who he says are very competent and set high standards.

Cheryl Downie, Fashion Leader at EIT IDEAschool, said: “We have been delighted with Ashford’s success, especially as this national competition is held in high regard in the fashion industry and the education sector. “

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Joseph E. Golightly