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fashion: feature

About the silhouette About the silhouette

Jack Yan is the first to interview Camille Howie, the winner of the 2007 Vodafone ID Emerging Designers’ Award in Dunedin
photographed by Douglas Rimington

Expanded from issue 23 of Lucire


AUCKLAND-BORN Camille Howie, an AUT graduate, scooped the Vodafone ID Emerging Designers’ Award in Dunedin in March. Her first entry to the competition, with an origami theme, was inspired in part by Comme Des Garçons and Junya Watanabe. ‘I was trying to find a balance between origami and a “wow factor”, plus it should be wearable and desirable for the client,’ she said in her first interview after the event.

‘It's a very experimental collection,’ she told Lucire. Howie said she invested most of her time in the hands-on aspect of designing, and in creating original structures: ‘That is my approach: if you are going to create something original and innovative, it needs to be worked through and … mixed with classics like shirts and tailored trousers so [that] not everything is foreign to the models.

‘I [took] simple silhouettes and built the origami on to them. It’s about the silhouette.’

Howie says she comes from a creative family, with an artist mother and a grandmother who did her own weaving and dyed her own wools. Her father is an ‘excellent writer who encouraged us to use our hands. He is very practical.’

That practicality saw Howie make her own clothes from the age of 11. She had already made up her mind to study fashion by the time she attended high school.

Dunedin was Howie’s first international competition and she admitted that she had little idea how big it was. She had entered some domestic competitions previously: ‘They are a great thing to do … to enter as many as you can and work hard toward them,’ she said. ‘I improved each time.’ Among those earlier competitions were the Deutz Fashion Ambassador and the ZambesiFashion Quarterly–Volkswagen Young Designer of the Year (in which she came second in 2006 and highly commended in 2007).

With each opportunity, Howie refined her balance between practicality and artistry more.

‘I started off [creating] quite wearable art when I was younger. I was not restricted by creativity.

‘I’ve pushed myself into wearable classics,’ she recalled.

When creating her collection for Dunedin, Howie had to work within certain criteria and measurements given to her by the organizers.

She was told that the models’ feet sizes would be between 39 and 41. She sourced accordingly, but stayed away from heels to keep the footwear ‘minimal’.

After arriving in the city, she said she didn’t let herself get nervous till she went in to the judging, held at the Edgar Centre.

‘I was flustered, because I was still dressing my models as the last contestant was coming back. I had to go straight in,’ she remembered.

‘I was blown away by how the [judges’] response was and how generous they were with compliments. I had expected nods. But they did ask me a few questions.’

The following night, Howie got to show her winning collection again as part of the “main event”, the Vodafone ID Fashion Designers’ show at the Dunedin Railway Station.

Despite winning an international competition, Howie foresees staying in New Zealand for a few years and is considering postgraduate study.

‘Who knows what can happen? I am a strong believer in being prepared,’ she said philosophically.

Howie currently works with Beth Ellery, who offered her the opportunity to show her range in Sydney in late April. •


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Above: The winning collection from Camille Howie, as shown at the Emerging Designers’ show. Below and inset: Howie got to show her collection a second time during ID, at the “main event” show at the Dunedin Railway Station.


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