Countdown to NZFW: designer Rachel Mills’ visual diary

Rachel Mills

Presenting a fashion collection is no easy undertaking, with many moving parts and always plenty of last-minute adjustments to be made.

Rachel Mills — today making her New Zealand Fashion Week debut with a non-traditional runway show — knows this all too well. But a week out from the big day, the young designer was maintaining focus and ticking things off. She details her last seven days below…

Rachel Mills moodboard

Monday 21st August: Moodboarding
My workroom walls are covered with pinboards. Being a visual person, this helps me to stay on top of the 101 things that are happening at once. I struggle to be able to get a complete grasp for moods, feelings, and the direction of a range, digitally, so seeing everything in front of me helps. Today I set out to plan a photoshoot for tomorrow. Usually, I uncover an image that is particularly striking to me, and that segues into more. This time I came across a shoot of Japanese flower arrangement in my favourite magazine, The Gentlewoman. It was shot by Mathilde Agius and styled by Raquel Franco. I love that an image can trigger such a strong emotive feeling in me, and I can only hope that other people can get that same feeling out of my own work.

Rachel Mills Jewellery shoot

Tuesday 22nd August:  Jewellery photoshoot
As the ranges shown at fashion week are generally at least six months from becoming available, I wanted to have something on offer that could be made available immediately – cue, Roteek. This beautiful jewellery was introduced to me by my business mentor, Janet. Janet travels to the Cook Islands regularly to give advice to local businesses. I had mentioned to her I wanted to bring more value towards craftspeople and makers, so she introduced me to Roteek and the Vakapora family, behind it. Today was shoot day for the range of jewellery and I had the wonderful Maggie from Colleen on hair.

Rachel Mills patternmaking class
Wednesday 23rd August: Pattern-making classes
For the past couple of months, I have been running pattern-making classes from my workroom. It is an attempt to return some integrity to the craft involved in the textiles industry and to get more people involved. Over time, with garments becoming cheaper and cheaper, both the monetary value and appreciation of each piece has diminished, as well as the amount of people who hold the skills to make them. I’d love to be able to play a part in not only maintaining the local textile industry, but also the resurgence of home craftspeople. I’ve been really overwhelmed by the response to these classes. It’s such a wonderful thing to see someone else begin to understand a new skill, and tonight’s class was just that!

Rachel Mills Model fittings

Thursday 24th August: Model fittings
This is the first day I have started feeling nervous about the presentation, with only a few days left to make sure everything is on track. Over the week we have had models coming through for fittings, and today I have begun compiling all the photographs I have taken, to make sure each girl is wearing the outfit that works the best on them. I’ve been working exclusively with Clyne for NZFW, which has made it so much easier for me to keep track of, only needing to communicate with one person. I’m holding out for the moment I get to see all the girls together with their hair and makeup ready.

Rachel Mills sculpture

Friday 25th August: Painting Sculpture
For the last couple of months I have been hitting up what has seemed like every signwriter or fabric cutter in Auckland. It’s been amazing discovering how helpful everyone has been! When first planning my event for NZFW, I knew I wanted to do something non-traditional. I also want my business to run in a socially responsible way, and for this newest range to communicate that. I began thinking about what resources are constantly being produced, and how I could utilise them to turn them into something thought-provoking, but beautiful. Since then, many late nights have been spent gluing, cutting, and positioning cardboard tubes to create organic forms of furniture. I have been very fortunate in enlisting friends and family to help me out, with a special mention to my dad. He is an extremely hard worker and today was one of those days where he painted, filed and sanded away. With only three days left, they are nearly ready!

Rachel Mills Selling

Saturday 26th August: Selling
Because all the fuss of fashion week is around the shows, we often forget that one of the main objectives of the week is to sell. This involves range viewings with buyers, in the hopes they will place an order. This means on top of getting the range complete and the show organised; costings, line drawings and linesheets all need to be ready. Instead of doing these myself this time round, I have had a very talented friend of mine, Kelsey, draw them up for me. She is incredibly precise, which is exactly what is needed.

Rachel Mills styling

Sunday 27th August: Styling notes
With only two days left to go, things are getting real! Today I have spent half the day trying each and every outfit on, complete with their accessories. I want to make sure everything is feeling as comfortable as possible, and that the looks are actually outfits I would wear on a daily basis. I have a strict policy; anything that doesn’t make me feel good immediately, is out. I want to be selling products that make people feel immediate joy, comfort and ease. The second half of the day will be spent compiling these looks with a page each, so dressers on the day know exactly what they are trying to achieve. Because a lot of my garments wrap and tie in a non-traditional way, I need to be super clear on exactly how each piece is worn.

Rachel Mills

Monday 28th August: Last minute sewing
It’s the final day! While I was trying everything on yesterday, my brilliant intern Eliza was taking notes on any last minute finishes the garments needed. Today we got to work, stitching on labels, trimming threads, sewing on buttons, before we packaged them up in garment bags, ready to go on the NZ Post van, first thing in the morning. I’m hoping to be able to squeeze in a quick celebratory lunch around the corner at Winona Forever, before tomorrow’s madness begins…