Student makes couture from old blankets

Talia Betham at the ECC Awards last week.

A love of op shopping has lead to a Massey University fashion design student winning three awards at the ECC New Zealand Student Craft/Design Awards. Talia Betham won the Supreme Award, People's Choice Award and Rembrant Textile and Fashion Award in the annual competition run by the Friends of the Dowse in Lower Hutt. Using recycled wool blankets, Ms Betham designed Broke, a collection exploring the effects of unemployment on young New Zealanders.

"I was inspired to return to my roots in Porirua and create a response to the effect unemployment can have on young New Zealanders.

"Woollen blankets were once a necessity in New Zealand homes and using them in my designs shows how people have to make the most of what they have got.

“The chain hardware represents the hardship and strain felt by young struggling families. The dresses are reversible which represents the fact that many people have multiple jobs and may have to wear different uniforms – I am playing with reversibility and having to be flexible," she says.

Ms Betham says she always checks out the blanket section when she goes op shopping and blankets can be bought for as little as six dollars. "A blanket is quite comforting and recycled wool blankets are so beautiful. There are a lot of wool blankets in New Zealand and they are so cheap. I decided to use wool as this could contribute to a growth in jobs for New Zealanders."

Two of the garments from the Broke collection, which won three awards in the ECC New Zealand Student Craft/Design Awards.

Pasifika garments – but not as we know them

Using fashion design and art skills to express ideas is important to Ms Betham. Her collection for Massey's College of Creative Arts' end-of-year fashion shows explores spirituality and her Christian faith.

"I have applied four design techniques, one per look. This represents the structure and boundaries that some religions can have on creativity and identity. Each design technique shows an aspect of faith. I have used imagery throughout to symbolise creative freedom, incorporating gestural drawings and unconventional design lines," she says.

Winning the ECC awards is not the only accolade Ms Betham has received as she comes to the end of her four-year Bachelor of Design degree. She has started a label – Layplan – with friend and former Massey student Lavinia Mafi and they were invited to take part in the Pacific Runway show in Sydney in October.

"They were very happy we were there. Our collection was quite contemporary using a neutral colour palette and straying away from the traditional colourful patterned material that is often used in island designs. We were exploring migration from the Pacific Islands," says Ms Betham, whose father is part Samoan.

There are still tickets available for the graduate show at 4pm on Saturday 12 November. Tickets are $30/$40 and can be bought from here.

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