Meet the second batch of Project Runway New Zealand designers

The first group of contestants were announced last week. Here's our first look at the remaining hopefuls.

The much-anticipated first season of Project Runway New Zealand is almost here. Last week TVNZ announced the first 7 designers set to take on the challenge of being crowned Project Runway NZ’s inaugural winner.

They included a pattern maker, a retail assistant and a rugby player. Here’s our chance to meet the remaining 7 hopefuls.

Benjamin Alexander, 23, Designer from Auckland

Benjamin’s background is in designing womenswear. He believes that embarking on a career as a designer – or any other creative endeavour for that matter – isn’t a want, it is a must.

He has his mum to thank for being on the show. “My mum sent me the application form and said I should do it. For whatever reason, the opportunity presented itself and I thought I should act on it.”

“I’m really looking forward to an avant-garde challenge,” he explains, “because that it is more about creating an idea that has context and conceptual value, rather than a piece of clothing.”

He describes his personal style as “Chic. I think my work speaks for itself – it is exaggerated minimalism. I like really clean lines and clean silhouettes with tailored clothing.”

And his point of difference as a designer? “Myself. What I do and how I work is so relentless. It’s very much head first, bull in a china shop and I think if you do it right, you do it bloody right.”

Camille Richard, 22, Handbag Designer from Auckland

Camille has her own handbag line, and by competing on Project Runway she’s hoping to gain inspiration and new perspectives in order to develop the line.

She’s come prepared for the challenge. “In my spare time I watched previous episodes to see what challenges they had and what last minute skills I needed to learn. My family wrote me notes of encouragement, which I would read whilst on the show to help keep me positive and on track!”

The colour of her hair gives a hint about her personal style and design aesthetic. “My personal style is a lot of colour, sparkle and print,” she says. “I have heaps of fun with what I wear! My design aesthetic is similar; however, I tend to design for my alter ego. I love designing statement pieces with weird shapes, sculpture, structure and organic lines!”

As for her point of difference as a designer, she says “I design for women who aren’t afraid to make a statement and have fun with what they wear. I like to design and create adventurous, sculptural pieces and embrace bold shapes, patterns and colour.”

And something that people would be surprised to know about her? “I conquered my fear of heights by the jumping off the Sky Tower. Also, snails gross me out! I don’t know why, especially as I’m half French!”

Matt Costello, 26, Nursery Worker from Nelson

Matt’s background is in streetwear for men, so he’s had to take a crash course in designing womenswear before coming on the show!

And if it wasn’t for his girlfriend, he would even be on Project Runway. “My girlfriend applied for me because she thought it would be a good challenge for me with my fashion interest. It was never about getting on the show, it was about shifting my mindset into a creative space. I thought there would be no way I would get in!”

As far as his person design aesthetic goes, Matt says “I really don’t care much about trying to look a certain way or fit a certain trend. I just go with feeling at the time. I tend to make art and fashion, but I don’t try to dress like a stereotypical designer. I used to do photoshoots with my collections in stubbies and gumboots to be honest and let’s not forget the crocs…”

Matt lists Lela Jacobs, A Coldwall, Jimmy D, Deadstudios and Yeazy as his fashion icons, and considers his willingness to break the rules as the thing that will set him apart from the other designers.

“I don’t stick to the textbook way of designing,” he says. “I love to break rules and follow my own intuition with my garments and designs.”

Judy Gao, 24, Fashion Designer from Auckland

Judy is a self taught designer, and has dreamed of becoming a fashion designer since she was 13.

“They say that a dream job is when you love what you do and you’re good at it,” she says, “so, for me, designing is my dream job. It doesn’t feel like work.”

Her goal one day is to have one of her designs worn on the red carpet by models like Kendall Jenner or Gigi Hadid.

She hopes that the fact she isn’t technically trained will set her apart from the other designers. “My point of difference is the different techniques I use. Because I wasn’t taught the proper way to assemble a dress, I figured out my own way and it’s created more unique designs. I kind of make it up as I go along!”

She describes her design aesthetic as “a mix of sophisticated, elegant, sexy, and edgy. However, my personal style is very simple and casual.”

As for the challenge she’s most looking forward to in the competition, “I’m really looking forward to unconventional and avant-garde challenge because it’s different to regular sewing and I think that’ll be really fun!” she says.

And something people would be surprised to know about her? “That I have a Woman FIDE Master title in chess.”

Beau Takapu, 37, Retail Senior Sales Assistant from Auckland

Beau grew up in San Francisco, but he made the move to New Zealand to get closer to his Tongan roots after not being able to shake the feeling that something was missing in his design aesthetic. He hopes it is his heritage that will set him apart from the other designers.

“I like to fuse my South Pacific heritage and background into my modern and classic designs,” he says.

Beau is a master multi-tasker – throughout the filming of the show, he was also planning his wedding!

He applied for the show because he was “really enticed by the challenges the show provided, and the opportunity that could arise from it for my design passion.”

Beau describes his personal style as “classic, modern and clean, but never shy of embellishments or unique eye-catching detail.”

He says he’s looking forward to all of the challenges the show can throw at him. I’m looking forward to all the challenges “Ultimately, I want to test my skills and push my boundaries!” he says.

Misty Ratima, 40, Maori Lecturer from Napier

Mum-of-four Misty applied for Project Runway because she wanted to be pushed out of her comfort zone.

Her designs are influenced by her Māori heritage. She has a fashion label, TE KOHU, which is the Māori translation of my English name, and some of her creations have been worn by Anika Moa.

“I never really liked what I saw on the racks in stores,” she says about why she wanted to become a designer. “As a teenager, I was either too poor to buy the few things I did like, or I wasn’t inspired by anything I saw. My grandmother and mother were particularly strong figures in my family and were always so well dressed no matter the occasion. It was their sense of style that made them stand out from everyone else.”

Her personal style, she says, “is generally based on the mood I’m in! If I was to define my own personal style, it would be street and the many interpretations that has!

“My design aesthetic would be considered the same. I like the idea of unisex streetwear, where women can look sexy in men’s garments that are an oversized look for her. I like to mix print, pattern and texture all the time. Imagery or portraiture has played a part in collections since I started.”

Jess Hunter, 23, Retail Assistant from Auckland

Jess has already had a start in the fashion industry, having spent three years working at a bridal dressmaking store.

She says her personal style is “always changing and evolving. I love being able to dress with a different theme or inspiration in mind each day. In terms of my design aesthetic, I’d consider it playful: I like to mix extremes, whether that be colour vs print or femme vs masculine.”

In terms of her design strengths and weaknesses, she says “my strengths would be that I find it easy to adapt to different and unusual specifications, as I have done a lot of custom dressmaking for people. This has also proven that I work well under pressure.

“My main weakness would have to be my time management. I always think I can cram more work in than I actually can!”

Her fashion icons are diverse. “Locally I would say I am a big fan of the Katayanagi twins and Zara McKenzie. Abroad I would have to say Bella McFadden and in terms of designers Ellery and Jaquemus are really influential to me – so a real mixed bag of people!”

And something people would be surprised to know about her? “I have danced all my life including hip-hop, Scottish highland dancing, and nine years of ballroom and Latin!”

Each week the designers will be judged by Fashion Quarterly editor Sally-Ann Mullin and World designer Benny Castles along with host Georgia Fowler and mentor Andreas Mikellis.

Project Runway premieres on Monday 1st October at 7:30PM on TVNZ 2.

Related stories

Get your favourite magazines home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.