Wellington Gala Project Fashion helps emerging designers show what they've got

The next big names in New Zealand fashion are getting an opportunity to show the public what they've got at a Wellington gala.

Project Fashion takes six emerging designers and turns them into business-savvy superstars.

"You sort of get your creativity nurtured at university, but you don't get the business side nurtured so much. So that's been the most important thing," designer Kelsey Dahlberg told Newshub.

The designers are ready to take their labels out of the studio, and onto the runway.

"As soon as you see it on a model, it just brings it to life. You can't even describe the feeling you get, you're like a proud mum," said Matthew Baitson.

Project Fashion is a six month programme that culminates in a runway show, and a capsule collection that's ready to sell.

"Developing a collection really makes you have to decide what you want your style to be, so I've gone from 'these are the things I like' to 'this is what I want Emblem to be and these are the values I hold,'" Ms Dahlberg said.

Mentors and industry insiders help the designers cross the bridge between what they learn at fashion or design school - and what they'll face in the real world.

The programme is built around four key missions - support, exposure, direction, and contacts - to help designers develop a refined brand and business sense.

"This has opened my eyes to the business side and the marketing side, which is quite new to me," said Havilah Arsende.

For Project Fashion's leadership team, the show's a chance to get consumers to think about what they're buying - and who's making it.

"The buyer and the consumers, we're buying into fast-fashion. And we want to stop that, we want to bring back locally made, sustainable fashion, and good quality," said producer Jaye Glam Morgan.

All the garments will go online for purchase, and are designed to be accessible, with Project Fashion keen to differentiate the designers from the more avant-garde, World of Wearable Art side of fashion.

"We still want them to be show-stopping pieces, but pieces that can be worn to everyday events as well," said Ms Morgan.

And the entire programme is not-for-profit.

"We do it for the love of it, we do it for the love of the industry and reviving it. But, you know, if there's an amazing philanthropist out there, that'd be great," said director Kate Diana Spencer.

Seeing the designers develop has been Ms Spencer and Ms Morgan's biggest reward.

"We are so proud of all of them. We're also proud of ourselves for the endless nights of no sleep," said Ms Spencer.

And it's just the beginning for the designers - they'll take their creations to New Zealand Fashion Week in August.


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