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Is orange still the new black?

- 10th June 2021 - 


Gone are the days where models on the runway look identical in height, weight and colour.

Designers are pushing the diversity envelope and are booking models with perfect-imperfections like gappy teeth and extreme pigmentation, shorter and fuller figure models, older and gender fluid models and most of all, models from all walks of life and nationality.

None more so than designer Cecelia Kang, who is one of the first trans-gender designers to hit the big time in New Zealand. Originally born in Korea, Kang was influenced by the unique, distinctive lines of couture fashion and knew that she wanted to create works of art that are one offs.

A self-taught designer, Cecilia makes everything herself from scratch – designing, patternmaking, sewing, beading and detailing, bringing her ideas to life right in front of her eyes, piece by piece. This method and approach Cecilia is well known for and makes her designs both intricate and bespoke so no one could copy even if they tried.

Cecilia celebrates colour both in her garments and with her models and knows that habitually, people purchase colours they are familiar with from their upbringing, be it their ethnicity, geography or mood. Quite often people don’t even realise this as its more on a subconscious level, but the more we are exposed to ethnic styles, colours and of course models, the more our subconscious recognises it as familiar and normal.

It’s this science that drives Cecilia to continue in her quest to change the landscape of fashion and push that diversity card every day in every way.

We caught up with Cecilia to ask her to download to us her latest ideas and mediums that are influencing her latest couture pieces.

They say that art imitates life, what is influencing your art at the moment?

NZ natural brand Nellie Tier is influencing me at the moment as my collection will be called "Ani-nature" Nellie Tier products, textures, and how gorgeous they are get me inspired which truly relates to my artwork that is NZ handmade. I think through Nellie Tier I am given a lot of influence with my fashion show for the upcoming New Zealand Fashion Week 2021. Nellie Tier skincare has given me an abundance of ideas to prepare for New Zealand Fashion Week in 2021.

Why does cultural diversity mean so much to you?

To me, cultural diversity is learning about other cultures that help to understand different perspectives within the world and share different characteristics of one another. This always helped me to recognize and respect everyone no matter where people were from. It is being who you are and being true to yourself.

How has fashion changed after ‘Black Lives Matter’, the Christchurch killings, the #metoo movement and the call for world diversity?

Fashion has become more diverse, inclusive and a lot more models with coloured skin are appearing. I feel like diversity has become more accepted in the modelling industry. It is good to see a lot of respect towards diverse people in our communities and that ALL lives matter.

Why is colour so important in fashion, especially in a country that celebrates black?

Colour is so important because it represents individuality of people and characteristics, which creates an emotional connection between people through fashion. I believe colour brings diversity itself and attention - just like some of my garments that I create.

Does society and its habits sway or influence fashion or does fashion influence society?

I believe that fashion is very personal and has its own characteristics. Fashion is more than just dressing up for events or for special occasion. It's a true reflection of who we are and what we believe through self-expression. The fashion industry contributes to society by allowing us to express ourselves, our creativity and our beliefs to the world and through our inspirations in life it does influence our society.

You can tell by Cecilia’s candid answers, that not only does she take fashion and her designs very seriously and understand the power a person can experience when wearing a couture piece, but she also understands her responsibility to influence society and push the boundaries for equality for all.