Georgia Nott of Broods fame wearing custom Courtney Perham
Performing at Irving Plaza NYC. Image credit here.
Courtney is someone I’ve known for a good few months now, albeit in a rather casual, acquaintance-esque capacity - I’d always catch her ‘round at events but I initially found out about her capsule collection “Volume I,” amidst mild inebriation during drinks with her and the Tür boys one balmy January evening.
Her work had piqued my interest last November, when I caught her graduate collection “Hard Wired” at the AUT Rookies show - so I jumped at the chance to do a feature on this prolific young talent, in an effort to dissect her modus operandi, and the trajectory of her label.
AS A FEMALE DESIGNING FOR THE MASCULINE FORM, DID YOU EXPERIENCE ANY INITIAL DISORIENTATION OR DISHARMONY HAVING TO WORK WITH FOREIGN DIMENSIONS, OR DOES YOUR FEMININITY IN FACT INFORM THE DIRECTION OF YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?
When first switching to menswear in my second year of study, I did struggle slightly, mostly in regards to everything having to be much bigger! However, I was able to quite quickly transition into the swing of things, as I myself started dressing more in unisex clothing - identifying my garments as neither for just women or men. I like to think that my experience in womenswear helps make my menswear different. Although some garments might sit on the cusp of womenswear, I am a firm believer that the boundaries between women's and men’s clothing are made to be crossed. In this blurred area the most beautiful and versatile garments are born.
YOUR DESIGNS PREDOMINANTLY IMPLEMENT NATURAL FIBRES; LINEN, COTTON AND SILK MATERIALS. WHAT’S BEHIND THIS ORGANIC APPROACH TO TEXTILE CHOICE?
I love the integrity that natural fibres have. It's about working with a fabric, not against, nor not trying to force it to be something it's not - and that's the aesthetic I love. There is nothing like putting on a linen shirt that still has a memory of the last time you wore it, it's thoughtful and personal. Also there's no competition between the feeling of silk against the skin!
LANDING AN INTERNSHIP WITH LELA JACOBS AT THE KEEP IN YOUR FINAL YEAR OF STUDY MUST HAVE FACILITATED MANY INDUSTRY EXPERIENCES AND OPPORTUNITIES. WHAT WAS YOUR TIME THERE AS AN INTERN LIKE?
I was really lucky in working as an intern with Lela. I was able to learn so much as I was involved in industry matters as well as in the workroom. The knowledge I was able to gain from working one-on-one with Lela is invaluable. Because Lela is self-taught, it was her method of working that appealed to me. It is vastly different from what I was accustomed to in my studies. It allowed me to look at the process of design in various lights, which in turn allowed me to build a strong method, working for myself. I'm now working for Lela Jacobs as the assistant designer, and not only is Lela an incredible teacher: her friendship and support has been so important whilst launching my label. I am very fortunate to have built such a strong relationship during my studies, and to have that support now is great.
MANDARIN COLLARS AND KIMONO SHAPE JACKETS SPEAK OF A VERY DEFINITE EAST ASIAN AESTHETIC TO YOUR DESIGNS. WHAT OTHER INFLUENCES WOULD YOU CITE AMONGST YOUR INSPIRATION?
This is a tough one for me! I don’t think I can specify any few clear influences that I am inspired by. Beautiful things surround us, so it’s not hard to find inspiration. Sometimes it's people, imagery or music. I always manage to find myself fascinated by one thing or another, or a combination of it all. I can’t deny that I find East Asian culture and history extremely fascinating and attractive, it's the relaxed energy and effortless style that I appreciate.
YOUR CAPSULE COLLECTION VOLUME I LAUNCHES ON THE 2ND APRIL AT THE KEEP. TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT THE CONCEPTS AND IDEAS BEHIND IT.
Volume One is an evolution and development from my Graduate collection. Volume One focuses on cut and shape whilst working in all natural fibres. I am really passionate about making interesting clothing that has more to say, as compared to what is already out there in the New Zealand market. Especially when it comes to menswear. I focused on cut and method of construction to differentiate myself from what is already on offer.
COULD YOU ELABORATE ON YOUR MANUFACTURING AND PRODUCTION PROCESSES?
For my initial capsule collection, I completed the entire production process myself from start to finish. Even though it was a big task to undertake, it was the best option for me at this point. I was able to cut and sew the collection myself in my studio at my family home.
Moving forward I will continue to pattern and cut, however I will work with an Auckland-based sewer for my production.
BROODS REPPED SOME CUSTOM COURTNEY PERHAM DESIGNS ON THEIR RECENT U.S. TOUR. HOW DID THIS COME ABOUT?
Yes! That was exciting for me. Caleb approached me about my graduate collection. Initially he was just interested in borrowing some of the collection to wear on their New Zealand tour earlier this year. Then it progressed, and we talked about making some custom garments for Georgia and him to take away with them on their U.S. tour. This has definitely been a highlight for me of 2015 so far. Seeing my clothing on an international stage so soon out of University is a very surreal feeling, that’s for sure.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST DIFFICULT ASPECT OF GETTING YOUR BRAND OFF THE GROUND AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT?
Honestly? Money. I am only 22 and work part time as an Assistant Designer, so I can’t say I am the most financially stable human at this point. However, with a good plan and supportive family I have been able to do exactly what I want. Also I know that moving forward this will get easier (here’s hoping).
WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN OR WOULD GIVE TO OTHERS?
I will never forget when I first started University a question a tutor proposed to my class... “Have you been scared today?” This is something that has stuck with me throughout University, and now as I enter the real world. To me, to be scared means you are trying something new, and pushing yourself into an unknown. I find turning fear into ambition instead of anxiety pushes you in all the right ways and directions.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE PLANNED FOR YOUR LABEL IN THE FUTURE?
I am planning on working alternatively to how the New Zealand fashion industry currently runs. So instead of producing 2 full seasons a year, I am going to retail 4 smaller capsules a year on a 3 month basis. I feel as though this is the best way for me to work, as I'm coming in the industry as a newbie and it makes the process more efficient for me as a starting point.
I’m really excited to be stocked in The Keep and I know that moving forward this will be a positive experience for me. I have a few other exciting opportunities in the near future! We will just have to wait and see, let everything happen the way it's supposed to. I'm looking forward to it.
Volume I by Courtney Perham is available now at The Keep at 504 Karangahape Road.