Natasha Clare Senior
A lightweight t-shirt top layered over a dense neoprene trouser is a modern silhouette that plays on the idea of hard and soft; a fashion trope that sums up how New Zealanders like to dress in contemporary fashion.
Emerging designer, Natasha Clare Senior, drew on her rich multicultural heritage (Russian, English, Scottish and Mongolian) and time spent in Rarotonga for the inspiration behind this sophisticated look - part of the New Zealand Fashion Museum exhibition, Moana Currents: Dressing Aotearoa Now.
The top features cut-out frangipani motifs made from recycled polyester foam and recycled yellow denim, sewn by hand onto a fluttering linen organza top. The neoprene bottoms have attached straps that hold the weight comfortably over the wearer’s shoulders, à la fisherman’s overalls.
The Christchurch-based designer’s love of the ocean also influenced the final design. "My holidays in Rarotonga inspired this piece, and its importance to land and sea. We need to protect our nature’s treasures and make sure further generations can enjoy its beauty. This piece really represents me as a designer as it has a deeper meaning that evokes more than just fabric. I am inspired by the craftwork coming out of the local villages, their embroidery techniques and tivaevae stitching is a reflection of how the people on the island still maintain their way of life."
Making clothes has been a passion since Natasha was a child. "My mother always helped me when I was younger to make my own clothes. We would go to Ballantynes and see Trelise Cooper and Karen Walker. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of New Zealand designers succeeding in their work and making it on an international level."
Natasha says her architect mother is her biggest inspiration. She is "constantly making things" and runs workshops on topics such as how to make natural fabric dyes. Fashion is in the family - Natasha’s maternal grandmother was a model in the USSR and her great grandmother was a milliner.
Natasha was still at intermediate when she entered her first fashion design competition. She placed two years' running in the Brother Design Stars competition, winning the opportunity to show a garment at New Zealand Fashion Week.
At age 14 she was the Supreme Award winner at the 2018 YMCA Walk The Line competition. Competition judge Doris de Pont says Natasha’s clear articulation of her ideas and the thoughtful and skilful execution of the concept impressed the judges. When curating the Moana Currents exhibition her neoprene piece immediately came to mind for inclusion. Most recently Natasha entered a collection into Hokonui Fashion Design Awards.
Looking up to several other designers who feature in the Moana Currents exhibition, Natasha’s talent is a promising glimpse into the mindset of the next generation of fashion designers coming out of Aotearoa.
Sustainability is incredibly important to Natasha. "I make sure what I wear or what I make has a positive impact on the environment and society. When shopping for clothes I buy from a brand that doesn’t use child labour and I make sure I can wear it with a lot of different outfits. I also give away clothes and buy from op shops."
When she is making clothes for herself or other people she looks for materials that don’t degrade when washed. "Sometimes I use second-hand material sold as large off-cuts, or else I buy from a New Zealand based fabric store where the buyers pick carefully and consciously. When designing pieces I’m thinking about overall sustainability and acknowledging my unique experience and surroundings."
Text by Dan Ahwa and Kelly Dix. Banner image © Natasha Clare Senior.
Published March 2020.