As a designer, I am in love with Nicole Wesseling of French 83. Which if you know me; you might be surprised because my forte with fashion is a) women’s clothing and b) kind of grunge. So it’s not that easy to get me excited about men’s suits. But Nicole has pulled me in. I managed to have a quick chat about her inspiration behind the collection and what it is like to be a Fashion Designer at NZFW.
RL: Tell me a bit about this collection?
NW: We showed our current in store collection, Autumn/ Winter 2016, which is called The Los Explorer. It was inspired by my trip to Nepal recently – the natural landscapes and mountains as well the climbers of Mt Everest. I’ve dedicated the collection the brave men who navigated the unstructured terrain of Mt Everest. The collection modernises the utilitarian clothing of these adventurous men. But is still a gentleman. Things like the lining of the pockets are printed with specific plants you can find at places like Cornwell Park and Piha.
RL: That is so flippin’ cool! Tell me more please!
NW: So I made up a character that I designed the collection for. His name is Oliver White and he lives in Auckland city and is a Graphic Designer. He’s an urban gentleman living in the suburbs, working in the city and enjoying nature in his spare moments. It’s impossible to go a day in Auckland without experiencing both the bustling streets and the pockets of nature scattered throughout the city, this is the environment that Oliver White lives in. I wanted to bring this balanced lifestyle to the rest of the world.
RL: I love that. French 83 is quite an International brand; you have stores in Beijing and Hong Kong. What was it like having such a New Zealand based collection? Featuring things like Piha and Sir Edmund Hillary.
NW: It went down really well actually! Because our Flagship Store is in Beijing we release with their seasons not NZ. Though in saying this, the Asia market seems to love New Zealand and responded very positively to the collection. I presented the collection to Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong (who stock French 83 in Hong Kong) and they just loved it. It is interesting because it’s a totally different market to New Zealand, so designing for both there and here was a learning curve for sure.
I also noticed that you moved away from just suits this season – something French 83 is known for. Can you tell me the reasoning behind that?
NW: Yes, I wanted to create a full collection for every occasion. I wanted to bring it away from just suits – broaden our customer base. Have Oliver White’s wardrobe complete.
RL: You seem to have slotted into menswear perfectly and found your niche. Do you think you’ll go back to women’s wear ever? What does the future hold?
NW: Yeah I have. I am loving developing menswear for French 83 so I don’t know actually. I’ve been working with this brand for a year and a half and watching it grow has been spectacular. I do still make women’s wear on the side, to keep up with everything, after all womanswear was my first passion. So who knows what the future will bring.
RL: Now that your show is over, whom else are you looking forward to seeing/or who did you love at Fashion Week?
NW: Honestly I have had no time to go and see anyone! But I love Wynn Hamlyn, Eugenie and the new designers coming through.
RL: Lastly, what advice they would offer to up-and-comers. What would you suggest?
NW: Networking is key – you never know who is going to help you or be part of the journey. Never turn your back on anyone. Oh and always meet deadlines! You can be as creative and amazing as anything but if you don’t meet deadlines you’re basically screwed and no one will work with you. And stay interested, passionate. Go to galleries, watch films- anything that inspires you. Don’t get stagnant.