"The company’s philosophy is to still make things here, and that’s good. Personally for me, because that means employment, I need to pay the bills, and also to utilise these skills."
I’m from Ukraine, I came to New Zealand in 2000 and started my new life here. Mainly to find better future for me personally and my family. When I came to New Zealand I was fortunate enough to utilise my skills in tailoring and I found a job here in the second week of being in the country.
It wasn’t big, I started in a small alteration shop on Ponsonby Road. It was good just to blend in and see what was around. New Zealand people are more laid back, more relaxed, not as formal as you would see in central Europe. It was a contrast in the beginning. And once you get to know people more, you start to understand why.
"The recent events that happened in Ukraine, another revolution and turmoil there, war, it drew me back with my feelings, lots of emotional stuff was going on through my head."
Ukraine still remains the country I grew up, I was formed as a person. Back there I spent four years in total, tailoring, I’d done bits of work for myself and different firms. I do miss Ukraine, my parents live there, my younger sister lives there. I haven’t been back. My wife is in Auckland, it’s tough. You have to take care of family, priorities, it’s tough.
I still have a close connection with my family back in Ukraine. The recent events that happened in Ukraine, another revolution and turmoil there, war, it drew me back with my feelings, lots of emotional stuff was going on through my head.
Definitely now my home is here in New Zealand, my son was born here he’s become a Kiwi, he’s in high school now. But still there is a strong rooting with your home country, I can say I’m a Kiwi but with a good connection to home.
I started at Zambesi in 2004, it was just an ad, the company was growing up and they were recruiting for a senior cutter and by that time I’d gained all the necessary skills and so I took my chances.
As a senior cutter I’m responsible for workloads, to do cuts for the production rounds mainly. All the cuts from the production manager, me and Neil will go through whatever fabrics we have, patterns we use and then we trace the pattern on a piece of paper, check if it’s balanced or measure all the requirements - yield-wise, usage-wise, and we start layering out on a table and cut it with some powerful blades.
Over time my role expanded in the company, I got involved more with helping our Men’s line designer Dayne [Johnston] and I help him with developing new styles, helping him with his collections.
Because of my background as a tailor, I do understand how the pattern works and how to modify it or create new ones so it was a big help for me personally to evolve in this company and utilise my skills in a wider spectrum. Also my previous background working with leather or fur also gave me an opportunity to help with developing things like accessories, bags, things like that.
Zambesi is a well established fashion brand and it’s a great opportunity to work for this company because you can hear about Zambesi and to be part of it makes me proud. To work here to be able to contribute to the company’s success, it’s really great.
That’s the main satisfaction, particularly when it comes to NZ Fashion Week, catwalks and events, people get together, I am a part of it, I know I did this and that, it was fun to create this. That’s the most satisfying part of it to see other people enjoy it and be part of it, you contribute to it.
"Let’s face the truth, there is a disconnect ... I really would love to see the kids who are going through their studying to be more connected with the industry. Not just being high flyers, like, ‘I’m a designer’, but without how it’s actually made up."
Seeing what’s happening around [the fashion industry] - it becomes more and more precious that it’s still made here. The reality of the market is different, more and more companies are moving offshore for manufacturing. The company’s philosophy is to still make things here, and that’s good. Personally for me, because that means employment, I need to pay the bills, and also to utilise these skills.
I’ve noticed sometimes institutions that prepare kids for fashion design and doing sewing when they take them here, even teachers, they’ve never come across how we operate here. When we show them, they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s how you do it’.
Let’s face the truth, there is a disconnect. In the 80s the textile industry was flourishing, there were many factories, there was the opportunity to learn how people actually work here, but now it’s less and less. And that’s why it all gets disconnected. And I really would love to see the kids who are going through their studying to be more connected with the industry. Not just being high flyers, like, ‘I’m a designer’, but without how it’s actually made up, the stages of the production, it’s kind of become disconnected. Working between designer and assistant pattern maker, it’s important to work in-sync, to understand each other. Sometimes if you’re a really high flyer designer it’s sometimes very hard to interpret to the real thing. You need to apply all these ideas to 2-D to even create the simplest pattern.
When a designer understands what it takes, their approach can be different or more simplified or at least more accessible. Designing is the important thing right, that’s where you express your vision, but then you need to deliver it to the people who are going to make it, and then it should work, it shouldn’t clash too much.