A Tarras rose garden was the inspiration for a winning garment which will be seen on the runway at Fashion Week tomorrow.
Whitecliffe College fashion technology student Nell Varney, who grew up in Wanaka, was one of 16 students from a group of 25 chosen by the judges to open three Resene designer runway shows at New Zealand Fashion Week in Auckland.
Each of the Whitecliffe students were randomly given silk twill dyed in Resene colours.
Varney said she had said to a friend a couple of weeks before she wouldn’t mind if she got pink but really wanted green or blue.
‘‘I’ve never really been a pink girl apart from when I was like 5. . .but I did say that, so I feel like I manifested it.’’
On the day the fabrics were handed out the students could swap but Varney chose not to.
‘‘I thought this the colour I’m going to stay with even though I’m not super happy with it . . . I’m glad I didn’t change it now because who knows I might not be a finalist if I had a different colour.’’
The colour inspired her design and it was something she doubted she would make again, Varney said.
‘‘I like to challenge myself. I always seem to always be finding a way to make my hair fall out.’’
The inspiration for her successful garment came from her grandmother Spin Lucas’ rose garden at Tarras.
‘‘She lives on a farm and I used to spend so much time there when I was younger, on the farm and in her rose garden, and that’s where the inspiration for the garment came from — my beautiful granny.’’
Varney described her personal design vibe as punk glam, inspired by her favourite designer, the late Vivienne Westwood.
Her path to fashion was a winding one. Growing up in Wanaka she saw practical rather than high-fashion clothes, she said.
That was until her mother Charlotte Lucas’ best friend Annabelle Finlay opened the boutique 47 Frocks, along with Bridget Legnavsky.
‘‘I used to play dress-up in there,’’ Varney said.
In year 11 she went to board at Timaru Girls’ High School. Because she had not had the opportunity to do material technology at Mount Aspiring College she was not able to start it at Timaru and learn to sew.
‘‘I kept getting deterred from fashion.’’
After leaving school Varney went to Wellington to study makeup. She began working at Recycled Boutique, eventually becoming manager.
‘‘I didn’t really know a whole lot about different fashion brands, what you can use to put together an outfit.’’
However, Covid hit and Varney realised she wanted a change.
A friend was applying to Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design in Auckland, so about a month before classes started in 2021 Varney sent in her application for a three-year diploma in fashion technology.
Once again it seemed her fashion career was not going to happen.
‘‘I got put on the wait list. But luckily about a week later I got a call to say I’d got in. I’m so grateful it happened.’’
Initially, she thought she would do the first year and learn to sew. However, that plan quickly changed.
‘‘After my first six months I was staying, I was going to finish [the course].’’
She was now in her final year and about to put together her graduation collection.
‘‘It’s definitely the thing I’ve been looking forward to because you get to show everything you have learned over the past three years — bundle it all together in a three-look ensemble.’’