NZFW: Starving Artists Fund designer Natasha Ovely on the tough conversations we need to be having

Starving artist's fund
The designer's collection at last year's NZFW. Photo credit: Getty.

Natasha Ovely announced her first solo New Zealand Fashion Week show in a slightly unconventional way; posting hateful comments from someone most definitely not a fan of the gender neutral brand. 

Writing that she was excited for the "major milestone" moment for her clothing brand Starving Artists Fund (SAF), it was a chance for Ovely to share an important message: she won't be bullied. 

"I've always wanted SAF to be a community in itself, where people feel safe to be who they truly are without repressive expectations of society," Ovely captioned the post.

"I'm not fazed by people’s threats to run me over with their car. I will keep making fearlessly and representing you." 

NZFW: Starving Artists Fund designer Natasha Ovely on the tough conversations we need to be having
Photo credit: Insta

The Facebook comments she shared included, "the rest of society shouldn't have to be sensitive of your mentally ill game", and "be ready to be aborted should your mentally ill ass step out in front of my car in this bullshit". 

While turning it into her NSFW announcement allowed for a laugh, Ovely says it raises an important point - this is the bullying and language many receive every day.

"I was just like 'OK, I'm going to embrace the term 'weird c**ts'. It's important to keep talking about diversity and inclusion - they've become almost just buzzwords but we need to be more action driven."

It's a message you'll see reflected in her clothing as it comes down the catwalk, often on a diverse range of bodies. But Ovely says she's not out to shock. 

"I'm not actively trying to challenge people, it's a reflection of my friend circle and the people I surround myself with, so it's not shocking to me... it's more just a reflection fo my view of the world and how I live. 

"It's been his way since the beginning." 

The designer is on her way to becoming a NZFW stalwart. Last year's debut collection was so well received she's back for her first solo show, which can never be described as "relaxing". 

But while Ovely describes the frantic lead-up of organising fittings and nailing down each catwalk look as "a good kind of hectic", she says she's putting into place some important lessons she's learned in the year since her debut. 

"This year I've learned to be more comfortable in how I work," she reflects. "I wasn't trained [at fashion school], so previously I was always questioning if my process was right or OK. I guess I've learned it might not be technically correct but it works for me - I just have to learn to trust myself." 

It's a sense of self that will be somewhat ironically reflected in this year's show, 'Where are you from? Where are you really from?'.

"Someone in the industry once said to me, 'Oh it's a shame your work doesn't reference your cultural roots,'" Ovely reveals.

"I don't think that's something they would have said to a white designer."

Despite the cheek of the comment, Ovely has paid ironic homage to the many varied, "cultural" influences someone may have. 

"It's a clash of cultural references, a series of questions. Like I upcycled these old jeans and paired them with this expensive European silks... it's a little bit of a challenge, to ask what's your sense of 'normal'." 

Perhaps you'll leave with more questions than you went in with - but that's the point. 

New Zealand Fashion Week runs from August 26 to September 1, at the Auckland Town Hall.