Vince Beckett with his tools of trade of nearly 50 years in the workroom of
the fashion design department at Massey University’s College of Creative Arts

Vince zips up fashion lecturing career

Fashion design lecturer Vince Beckett has come a long way since his first tailoring task of sewing on a button fly.

Nearly 50 years ago the essential accessory to men’s trousers was the norm before mechanisation helped make zip flies more common.

"A zip fly was pretty special," Mr Beckett says. "Most were button flies; you used to have pay extra for a zip fly."

On Friday, when he retires after 27 years in the fashion design programme at Massey’s College of Creative Arts, he bids farewell to a career tailoring and constructing clothes and mentoring hundreds of students.

His association dates back even longer – to 1964 when he studied at the then Wellington Polytechnic and later tutored for a trade certificate in clothing.

It was also a time when the pop music scene was taking off and bands like the Rolling Stones were driving other cultural trends such as what young people wore. “It was an amazing time to be part of the fashion and clothing scene. You couldn’t pick a better decade than the 1960s.”

He returned permanently in 1986 and has lectured in pattern-making, clothing construction and textiles. “Being here is like a new job every year with a new intake of students.”

While events like the annual fashion show have morphed into a slick and sophisticated presentation compared to the do-it-yourself ethos of previous years, the core priority and expectations for the students remains unchanged.

He was often the only man among staff and students. On field trips to clothing factories “people would wonder who’s this man with all these girls". Later, when graduates established their own labels, factories and shops he would be recognised throughout the industry.

He is surprised that the industry still does not attract many men. He counts those who he has taught as among his best students. One graduate, Duncan McLean, says Mr Beckett's rapport with students, sense of humour and technical knowledge made him an "absolute legend. He’s really grounded in reality, having worked at all levels of the trade.”


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