In conversation with Natasha Ovely of Starving Artists Fund
Meet the new designers shaking up New Zealand’s fashion scene from afar.
Each designer within this interview series is a multidisciplinary artist, maker and non-compromising force of creative resistance. At a time of socio-political uncertainty we are inspired by their journey, knowledge and understanding of the future. It reminds us to trust your art and believe in your values.
'Starving Artist Funds' authentic and non-binary perspective has propelled its name onto the New Zealand fashion scene. The ethically conscious, cult brand is the creation of designer Natasha Ovely. Ovely's background in fine arts, sculpture and multicultural exposure adds to the richness of her designs.
'Starving Artists Fund' considers the impact that "radical inclusivity" can have in our times and will be showing in the 'Contemporary Collection' at NZFW.
Get to know the wonderful Natasha in our Q&A below :-)
I think people want to know your story. Tell us a bit about your background prior to launching your label?
After graduating from Elam School of Fine Arts where I specialised in Sculpture, I dabbled in photojournalism and did a few internships in Shanghai and London. I was hired by the publishing company I interned with in London, before moving to Berlin and later Munich. My apartment started swiftly filling up with garments I had taught myself to sew, which is when I got in touch with Janey from NZFW. I moved back to Auckland last year, leading up to my first show to launch the brand and finally get my fashion career off the ground.
Did you always want to be a designer?
I have always been strongly drawn to fashion design but had a certain reluctance to pursue it. I’m sure that many people with an immigrant background can relate to the pressure of pursuing something either socially or financially viable to validate the sacrifices of their parents. I felt like pursuing a creative field was a privilege and I had to work through and find a way to create a moral code that fuelled my pursuit. Simply making pretty clothes wouldn't have fulfilled me.
What's the concept behind the show and what can we expect in terms of the setting, music and casting
Our NZFW collection, ‘Where are you from? Where are you really from?’ was prompted by a comment made by someone in the industry, suggesting that my work should reference my cultural roots. It made me think about the fact that the same expectation is rarely held to designers who aren't of minority cultures. I take pride in the fact that my work doesn't refer to a single context, especially considering my nomadic childhood.
This collection is a celebration of mixed signals and clashing references, worn by the fiercest group of street cast and agency models alike.
Our lighting is inspired by border patrol and the current political climate around immigration. In terms of music, the mood moves from the likes of Sevdaliza to Solange and Outkast!
You mentioned you had a nomadic childhood. Are you able to share a little more? I am so intrigued!
I was born in Mumbai and moved to Saudi Arabia as a child, followed by Dubai and moved to NZ on my own when I was 13 to attend boarding school in Havelock North. We later moved back to Dubai and then to Auckland, where I finished my final years of high school and University. Since then I've kept the momentum going by travelling and living in various cities across Europe.
What else are you working on at the moment?
A line of custom prints I’ve had on the back burner for a few years now for a limited release. I’m also looking into organising more public events in the coming year.
Your thoughts on art/design in the digital age
It’s a double-edged sword. Technology has opened up a massive avenue of possibilities for creatives, setting a new challenge which is extremely exciting. On the other hand, it is somewhat troubling that social media has become a measure of worth. To the extent where, as a brand, your opportunities for sponsorship and stockists are dictated by your number of followers.
Is it sometimes challenging to listen to your instinct in an increasingly chaotic industry?
No. I make it a top priority to check in with myself at regular intervals and examine my vision for the brand. I made a decision this year not to weigh myself down with the burden of commercial viability for this collection. I wanted to be free to create what I am moved to, without having to compromise on originality at this young stage.
Your dream collaboration
If I had to compile a dream team at this stage, it would be Charles Jeffrey, Mowalola, SZA, Anish Kapoor and United Nude. Can you imagine? Locally, a collab with Deadly Ponies or Quim jewellery could be pretty exciting.
And finally, what’s next
My main focus in 2020 will be testing markets overseas and building an in-house team. Before that, I’d like to hit a few good parties and have some long naps on a beach.