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Italian jaunt fuels passion for fashion

Pic 2_Chambers-Watson tent jacket_Jess
FUNCTIONAL FASHION: As part of his course last year, Chambers-Watson designed a jacket that turns into a tent, modelled here by Wesley Fourey.
Photo: Matt Brown (supplied)

By Jess Pullar, reporting for the Christchurch Mail

Attending fashion school for a six-month scholarship in Milan has given Christchurch’s Duncan Chambers-Watson a new outlook on design.

The former Cashmere High School student, now 24, spent the summer at Milanese fashion school Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) as part of his Bachelor of Design at Otago Polytechnic.

He worked with professionals from top Italian fashion labels, such as Fendi and Valentino, and soaked up the experience of living in one of the world’s most important fashion capitals.

“Italian style is so strong, it’s ingrained,” he said. “In New Zealand, we don’t have that style. We have people doing their interpretation of it, but we don’t have something you could say, ‘this is Kiwi’. We’re kind of a melting pot.”

The Milanese experience has changed the way Chambers-Watson designs and makes clothes, and he now combines the “New Zealand DIY culture of making out-there crazy things” with Italian sensibilities of how things fit and hang.

“Dunedin has a strong look with Nom*D doing their thing, but that was never who I was. Being in a fashion-orientated city changes the way you think about fit and movement.”

Next on Chambers-Watson’s agenda is New Zealand fashion week in August, where he will be working for designer Trelise Cooper for a third year. He also hopes to show his own collection at Shanghai Fashion week in October.

Chambers-Watson said his current collection was more tailored and crisp: “I do quite Italian simplistic style”.

His Milanese tutors had taught him that doing well in fashion was not just about being technically good, but about having strong references.

He said too many people used the Internet the wrong way, combing social media to look at current collections and trends. Instead, they should look to the past and watch old movies or read older editions of Vogue. Or better yet: “go and meet the influential people”.