He may still be studying, but third year Ara Institute of Canterbury fashion student William Roper has already worked with top New Zealand designers, and it shows.
Roper is one of ten students exhibiting industry-directed collections for the Ara annual exhibition, Form, with photos and garments on display at XCHC until Friday 7 July.
His striking black and white collection, titled My Hearts Are Beating Fast Autumn/Winter 2018, was inspired by a brief from Auckland designer James Dobson of Jimmy D fame. Dobson doesn’t usually offer internships, but made a special exception for Roper.
Internships are an integral part of the Bachelor of Design (Fashion Technology and Design) and strong industry connections mean that students are placed with some of the top names in fashion. This year students have completed placements with designers including Ruby, Devàl, Alice McCall and twenty-seven names.
“James was a judge at the Hokonui Fashion Awards, where I happened to win a section and he remembered my work. That was a factor in him deciding to take me on I think,” Roper says.
Roper was attracted to the Jimmy D aesthetic - dark, deconstructed, androgynous – and the designer’s process of working with artists such as graphic artists.
“I was there for three weeks in January. It was fantastic! I have also done an internship at Zambezi and that was quite different, because they are relatively big for a company that does on shore manufacturing and well established for something like 35 years. Jimmy D is basically one man in a small workroom and he shares it with a young graphics girl.”
Assisting with cutting, pattern making and toiling during a production time, Roper was in his element. The success of Jimmy D, established in 2004, was also inspiring, although Roper doesn’t consider Jimmy D to be outrageous.
“In the grand scheme of things if you look at Zambezi, Nom*D and a few other brands, it’s not that wild. It is quite different to what you find in the malls, but in terms of the fashion scene there’s a market for it; New Zealand loves that black drapy look.”
The brief for the Form collection called for deconstruction and femininity. Roper took these themes and ran with them, researching the Pre-Raphaelite concept of women, selected text from New Zealand poet Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle and the philosopher Jacques Derrida, whose ideas involved pushing the boundaries of design to get as far away as possible from the traditional object while still retaining function and complying with the laws of physics.
How this translates to the collection is fascinating. “How far can you push the concept of clothing? One of my garments, the Transformer, can be worn inside out, back to front, or any combination of those. It is quite wild in terms of when you lay it out flat, you wonder where is my head going, where do my arms go? But it is still a garment that is worn – that was the most innovative piece.”
The audience at the Form opening event thought so too. The Transformer was one of the many pieces that William sold on the night.
Other garments featured prints by young Christchurch artist, Alice Bray, a good friend of Roper who has collaborated with him before.
Meanwhile the creative cogs are still turning. The big end of year runway show Pitch will be his last chance to show the industry what he can do before he graduates and starts working. He hopes to work for a small label doing onshore manufacturing to take his skills into the industry and get some more experience. Then one day he might just start his own label – watch this space.
Read more: Form exhibition
Photo gallery: William Roper Clothing
Find William on social media: @WilliamRoperClothing on Facebook and @williamroperclothing on Instagram.