Kim Chance’s tertiary journey over the last four-and-a-half years (and counting) assigns new meaning to the term ‘two degrees of separation’. The 22-year-old discovered her love for fashion at a young age but chose to pursue a Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood) here at Wintec, after becoming a mother at 17. Kim began to rekindle her ever-burning ambition shortly before graduating, and when the School of Media Arts announced its pilot fashion degree pathway for 2016, she was sold. Rarely one to pass up an opportunity, a recent side project of Kim’s involved designing an aquatic-themed dress for friend and Miss World New Zealand contestant, Katie Atkinson.
In our interview, Kim mused over falling in love with sewing and fashion at the age of 13, her style and inspiration as a designer, the process of producing a pageant-worthy dress, and where she sees herself fitting into the fashion industry.
Did you have a knowledge of fashion and how to sew before you started your degree?
The love for sewing and the love for fashion started when I was back in England at my high school. Before that I hated it, I thought it was stupid – I could never thread up the sewing machine, and it just put me off the whole idea of fabric – but then I got a detention and had to stay behind, and the teacher actually took the time to teach me how to sew and how to thread up the machine. That was it, I fell in love with it from there. When we moved to New Zealand I did fabric textiles at Fairfield College, and the teacher they had there was amazing – she was very knowledgeable.
Five things you’ve learned since becoming a fashion design student:
1. How to pattern things!
2. The importance of making sure your notches line up, which won’t make any sense to you, but any fashion person reading will understand the importance of notches!
3. I do take on way too much, and I need to slow down. I think I’m just very worried that all these opportunities are coming my way, and if I don’t take them, I’m not going to get anywhere, because fashion’s such a large world.
4. There are lots of doors in fashion. I just need to find what’s right for me, and it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get your own collection out there.
5. I want to do journalism. It’s a realistic pathway that I think I can fulfil.
When it comes to designing garments, do you have a certain style you tend to work with? How would you describe your style as a fashion designer?
As a designer, my style would be Oriental Elegance, as I call it. My best friend’s Chinese and I just love the colours and the patterns and the craziness of Chinese fashion, so a lot of my work does have a sort of oriental flare to it, whether it’s through the fabric I’ve chosen or possibly collars and cuffs and structure – that sort of thing. When it comes to designing, at the moment especially, it’s ‘what does the assignment want me to do?’ but I can definitely see myself in what I’ve ended up producing.
Tell me about the process of creating the Miss World NZ dress, from initial concept to final product – how long did it take you to make?
My friend Katie Atkinson was a Miss World NZ finalist, and she was looking for someone to make this dress for the national costume sector of the show, and it was paid work. She needed it done by the 10th of May – I had three weeks to do it in – so it was pretty nuts. I had a couple of days where I was just making the patterns for it, and then I had probably about a week and a half to actually make it and do all the finishing touches and stuff to it.
She showed me a concept of what she wanted, and it was a national costume, so it had a very big element of being themed to New Zealand. The thing that Katie wanted to focus on was New Zealand’s pure waters, and the clarity of New Zealand’s ocean. Her dress was blue and reflected paua and her skirt was the waves. She found this gorgeous sequinned fabric that was a nightmare to work with, but was beautiful and looked amazing on the stage with all the lights on it.
Did you find there was anything you had to teach yourself in the process?
I had to teach myself the whole thing (laughs). I’ve never done anything that’s so extravagant and time-consuming, and in the time limit that I had. I do have decent sewing skills behind me, but you can’t sew something well unless you have a really good pattern, and the pattern-making is what I’ve learned from Wintec, through Sally – she is amazing. Before you can actually start sewing a garment you need to have decent patterns and you need to practice it, so you make it out of a fake fabric and then look at it, fit it, and then you make it out of your real thing. It’s a lot of trial and error to get the right fit and to get the right look you’re after, and that I learned through Wintec.
I’ve never done anything that’s so extravagant and time-consuming, and in the time limit I had. It’s a lot of trial and error to get the right fit and to get the right look you’re after – that I learned through Wintec.
Tell me about the night – what was it like seeing your creation modelled on stage?
It was so cool! It was super cool. I’d had the dress to make and then I was behind with some other class work and then it was my daughter’s birthday and she’d just started school – it’s just been a crazy two months really. It was a night out in Auckland basically at SkyCity Convention Centre, and I thought ‘I’ve got to go, it’s my first every dress!’. I could see all the flaws in it before giving it to her, as you do, but when I saw it on stage on her and with the lights on it and the music and the atmosphere – oh, it was just fantastic. Yeah, I think it really did do what she wanted it to and she pulled it off well.
I could see all the flaws in it before giving it to her, as you do, but when I saw it on stage on her with the lights on it and the music and the atmosphere – oh, it was fantastic.
Do you hope to take on more opportunities like this as a student?
I would definitely like to take on more opportunities like this, because not only did I get paid for it, which was brilliant, but I honestly learned so much from it, and I had a lot of support to do it as well. I was doing it here at Wintec, making it, using the machines, the cutting tables, and even my teacher Sally was more than happy to give me a hand if I needed it. She could see the opportunity I had there.
What are your career plans once you get your degree?
Fashion is such a big world! I don’t know, I mean, you could have the dream of wanting to do the runway thing or be a designer and all the rest of it, but that’s not really realistic and I’ve got my daughter. I think I’m going down the path of journalism – fashion journalism – for a magazine, or doing a blog – something along those lines. We’ll just see what happens. When I started I really had no idea, all I knew was that I wanted to do fashion, and I just wanted to see where it would take me basically. I find that when I’m writing about fashion, it just comes and I just really do enjoy it. It’s two things that I enjoy doing, and putting them together just makes sense.
I find that when I’m writing about fashion, it just comes and I just really do enjoy it. It’s two things that I enjoy doing, and putting them together just makes sense.
Thanks to Kim for taking the time to meet with us and for offering us such a great insight into student life at Media Arts Wintec. You can find Kim’s blog here.
Learn more about fashion, illustration strategies and pattern design in our Bachelor of Media Arts Fashion pathway here.