"it’s kinda weird but what really got me into fashion was 1930s gangster movies."
Riley wears the DYSTOPIA TEE from AW19
What do you do? 

I'm a fashion designer, well, a fashion student at least; I’ve just graduated. 

Tell me a little bit about your aesthetic and style.

I’ve always been inspired more by the artisanal or historical side of clothing. I guess if I was to sum myself up you could say I'm a bit of an antiquarian. I'm always about kind of discovering what lies beneath society. I’m really interested in the whole concept of human clans and certain points in history; I try to bring elements out of the past into contemporary fashion through my practice.

And so your love of  history come before your love for fashion?

So, it’s kinda weird but what really got me into fashion was 1930s gangster movies. I just loved that thirties gangster kind of silhouette; the cut of the suits, the fedoras, the angles, the thick chalk stripes. I got into fashion because I wanted to make that kind of thing relevant again for menswear. But once I really started studying fashion I began to discover the reason I was into this stuff was more a kind of sensibility, or even more just a response to how fast-paced and digital today’s society is. 

Riley wears the CLONE BOMBER from AW19
You think your creative response is reactionary then?

Yeah maybe there’s a sense of nostalgia or an exploration of another way of doing things. I kind of wanted to remind people that the slower elements in fashion that are kind of more considered can be just as powerful and exciting.

So tell me about your graduate collection, what was the concept?

Haha, there’s a bit of a story there. It was essentially based on a personal experience I had last year. So, out of know where I was beaten... this guy kind of just came up and blindsided me. I was in hospital for a few months, with a broken jaw, I was bed-ridden and drinking through a straw and all I could do was plot revenge in my head you know, I was like, so full of anger. So, yeah, I was kinda in this surreal headspace and I was thinking about killing this guy or whatever and I didn't care what would happen, I might go to jail, I didn’t care. My male pride was just so wounded and my own notion of masculinity had been kind of challenged. I wanted to get revenge to reclaim my pride I guess.

My fashion collection was basically revenge against this guy, you know, so rather than tracking him down and hurting him, I chose to depict him and the experience in my range, which ended up really being about toxic masculinity. I explored toxic masculinity as a form of disease or more so a curse, it’s something that’s passed down. I got into Gothic literature and there is kind of concept of “the sins of the forefathers”, you know, or you're cursed you've inherited something. I was really interested in the insecurity of the male persona, and we’re willing to kind of become animals to articulate masculinity or prove something... the fact that someone would attack a stranger on the street like that, there’s just so many layers to it

So the collection helped you work through it? And did you forgive him?

Yeah, in a way, I think it did but what I really found rewarding about throwing my anger into this collection was that it helped me come to grips with not only the issue, but also myself as a person and as a designer. Because it was so personal the work had a lot of meaning to me. 

Riley wears the VITAL SHIRT from SS18
Do you think this made it a more successful collection?

I would hope successful... but more so more genuine... I think it made it more authentic. Authenticity is a big part of design for me, you know like, I don't want to do the whole seasonal trends / fast-fashion thing. I want to work on something and love the concept and love every stitch. I want to work in an area of fashion that kind of promotes a dialogue that might resonate with that have gone through something similar or believe in a similar idea or philosophy as me; if I can dress those guys.

Is there a market for that? Particularly with New Zealand menswear?

I think, I mean I'm not really authority on New Zealand fashion but I think there is a return to guys caring about fashion and spending more on clothing and approaching clothing as more of a kind of investment piece.

You know, again it's like my sensibility kind of comes out of the past. You know guys could only afford one suit, and they would buy one and keep it for 50 years, and it would be handed down to their children and their children’s children and I think there’s a return to that because people are just getting sick of this Instagram sort of rapid-fire pace where trends are here one day and gone the next and clothing is just falling apart or thrown away.

What's your plan now after graduation?

I'm keen to work for a bit and get some experience. Then I’d love to go check out Europe, particularly Russia.

Why Russia?

I think it's more like a kind of sensibility or vibe, you know, you’ve got Pushkin and Chekov and those dudes and the Mariinsky Theatre scene and the Russian Ballet and all these elements from history that are still strong today. I think we might overlook Russia, because of the whole stigma against it. But, you know, it's just as strong culturally as anywhere in the West. Yeah, something there is drawing me. It’s the kind of place I want to explore and hopefully get inspired by. Because of it's really rich history and also I think the youth are kind of coming through creatively. You know there's a whole new wave of Russian designers or musicians that are responding to their history, their current politics, economy, how Russia is perceived in the West, and their cultural identity which is pretty paradoxical, you know this crazy superpower with a fucked history and finding your identity in the middle of all that.

Photos: Sacha Stejko

Styling: Enisa Kartal