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Hamilton fashion designer not ready to hang up Fashion Week collection

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Hamilton-based entrepreneur and designer Ana Wilkinson-Gee hasn’t let the vagaries of a global pandemic stifle her enthusiasm for producing ethical fashion.

She opened first actual Holi Boli shop at 462 Ulster Street after being forced to leave behind the ethical women’s clothing manufacturer and fashion label she and husband Daniel operated in rural India. during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020.

Now the cancellation of New Zealand Fashion Week (NZFW), scheduled for early February, has dealt another blow to Ana’s dream of using fashion as a vehicle to empowerment and dignity for women working in the fashion industry in developing
countries.

It also meant double the workload for the Ana and the four other designers who were originally booked to kick off NZFW in the Sustainability Show in August last year.

“As small producers we rely on shows to lift our profiles so we can share our brand with a wider audience, grow and get our clothes in stores,” she says.

“The impact of the postponement of NZFW last August and rescheduling to Feb 22, meant the designers were sent back to the drawing boards (literally) with the change of season imminent, to design and make all new tall-sized samples for the winter collection suitable for the summer February showing.”

Rather than hanging up their collections, the collective of ethical social enterprises from the Sustainable Show are now planning to put on their own fashion show. 

Working alongside Ana are Jodie Woods, Tonic&Cloth in Palmerston North, Sonia Therese, Sonia Therese Designs in Christchurch, Emily Long, Duffle&Co in Mt Maunganui and Erica Gadsby, Recreate Clothing in the Waikato.

“We are pooling resources, strength and audacity to showcase the collections we have all put so much work into – that in turn puts food on the table for our staff and their families.”

Ana says just like the designers’  ethos of slow, ethical fashion, the show will be a carefully curated, limited numbers event with live streaming available to capture a wider audience.

“Our small social enterprise businesses are driven by a common purpose – to bring positive change and empowerment to women through ethical fashion. 

“With our own ethical production houses in places like India and Cambodia, we are used to navigating difficult circumstances in order to keep our seamstresses empowered with fair wages and dignified employment. 

“One advantage of being a small business is that we are nimble and we can pivot,” she says

Ana is also using the show as an opportunity to showcase an inclusive and healthy fashion industry, “where beauty is spirit, not size”.

“We’re excited to bring joy when it is much needed, while modelling collaboration instead of competition.

“The amazing Silverfox Management model agency is teaming up with us and walking the talk on age positivity. 

“We want to see a relatable and diverse cast of models of different shapes, ages and ethnicity. 

“It is empowering for women to see someone like us on the runway. We (women) have been oppressed by unrealistic ideals of what beauty is,” she says

Anyone who is keen to participate and offer their resources can contact Ana at ana@holiboli.com or Jodie at jodie@tonicandcloth

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