Career

Girl you need to know: WearableArt designer Kayla Christensen

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Meet Kayla Christensen the twenty-six-year-old from Paraparaumu creating fine art to the wearable art, and everything in between.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the World of WearableArt (WOW) Awards, the leading design competition in New Zealand that attracts contestants from all over the globe as they push the boundaries in creative, wearable art design. But it’s not just high-profile talent making it on the stage, with local mastermind Kayla Christensen deservedly securing a spot on the stage.

Miss FQ chats to Kayla ahead of the Awards and discovers why she’s a girl you need to know.


What’s your story?
For as long as I can remember I have always been creative and as my mum would say I have an “overactive imagination.” I used this to my advantage and my journey as an artist began. I found my passion for the performing arts through dance and I was always drawing, painting and making something out of nothing. Along came the World of WearableArt and I was determined to be a finalist and believed there was a possibility I could even win the whole thing!

How did you get started with World of WearableArt?
It all started when my best friend Renee and I won our high school wearable arts competition in 2008, the 1st place prize was tickets to go see the World of WearableArt Award Show in Wellington. We were so inspired and we thought ‘why not us?’, it was everything I loved about the performing arts, all in in one show. So the goal was set and the brainstorms started, we worked so hard while juggling our school work and it all paid off as we were accepted the following year as a finalist in the Open Section with our garment ‘Points of Conservation.’

Little did we know that had ignited a huge passion and proved that the only limitations we really had was our attitude and if we had the right mindset anything was possible.

Little did we know that had ignited a huge passion and proved that the only limitations we really had was our attitude and if we had the right mindset anything was possible. This boost in confidence was the catalyst that generated successful entries together and then over the years we developed as independent designers.

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Kayla (right) pictured with Renee (left).

Where has this taken you?
WOW has given me the confidence as an amateur designer to keep at it and keep refining my craft year after year, through this, I rediscovered my love for painting.

Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to pursue a creative career?
You don’t have to have a lot of money to start, just find your passion, set what you want to achieve and just take the first step. For me to be able to enter WOW and to create a garment, I had to alter my lifestyle and manage my time every day. I have always said if you can dream it up and you can see what you want to create in your mind, it is only a matter of working out how to recreate your idea into reality and most of the time the hardest part is actually just to start

How important is female empowerment to you and why?
It is very important to me to highlight female empowerment. Most portraits I paint are of strong women who withhold a special kind of essence (which I believe we all have) and represent an idea, a dream, or a culture. This always seems to be reflected in my work as some kind of warrior or goddess. For example, my garment ‘Kuini’ from last year’s World of Wearable Arts Show, is a strong woman I have represented as an ancestor of our forest here in New Zealand. She is Queen of the land and protects our most prized taonga, our native birds.

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‘Kuini’  won 3rd place in the Aotearoa section at the World of WearableArt 2017.

How would you describe your strengths?
My imagination is one of my major strengths, not only does it enable me to dream up original ideas, it enables me to envision what I want to achieve and how. Once I have that picture in my mind it is only a matter of turning it into a reality. Another strength I think is my determination, I am always thinking ‘why not me?’ ‘Why can’t I achieve that goal?’ And most of the time I can never think up a good enough excuse as to why I can’t.

What are some challenges you’ve faced or had to overcome?
A huge challenge for me while taking on a project such as WOW is that I have to change my lifestyle around to earn some time to work on my creation. This year I took a risk and reduced my full-time job to a part-time job for a month to allow for more time to work on my WOW entry. This was a challenge financially but I had saved my 3rd place prize money from my last year’s creation ‘Kuini’ to help support my living costs and materials for this year’s garment.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully working as an established artist earning a living from what I love to do and I would love to have my own space to be able to make anything I can imagine freely, without having restrictions on size, space and time.

Photos: Supplied

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