Getting The Gig

Meet The 20-Year-Old Designer Making Waves This New Zealand Fashion Week

By Armelle Frimpong
12th Aug 2019

Up and coming New Zealand designer Holly Norman is the brains behind sustainable fashion label Olli and is showing at this year's New Zealand Fashion Week. A true artist at heart and a champion of sustainability, many of Olli's fabrics are sourced from textiles that would otherwise have found their way to landfill.

We caught up With Holly Norman ahead of Fashion Week to talk art, flying and the best part of being your own boss.

Can you tell us what your earliest fashion memory was?

I made a ‘skirt’ out of felt when I was four or five. It was blue and pink and constructed with such skill in the eyes of a smaller me. I wore it shopping. It didn’t fall off. I looked great.

Why did you want to get into fashion?

I would say the fashion world pursued me, rather than the opposite. My everyday revolves around art, so I find fabric has simply been an alternative medium for me, like paint or a sharp pencil.

How did you get started?

I couldn’t even tell you because I am still unsure myself. It just happened. Olli has been waiting inside me for years I believe.

What helped you make the leap into launching your own label?

I don’t fear the judgment of others in regard to my art. So, I had a rather bare list of reasons not to launch Olli.

What’s the best part of being your own boss?

The amount of creative freedom I have is endless. I don’t have to adhere to anybody’s guidelines or suggestions.

And the worst?

As I haven’t studied business and/or design, there are still many things that I simply do not know. Being the boss and all other employees means that I only have one brain to help solve problems when things go south—unless you count YouTube as a person.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

Courtesy of Pinterest and with a strong relevance to the creation of Olli; The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.

You’re showing at NZFW, what can we expect from your collection?

My newest project is so fucking cool, for lack of a better description. You can expect a charismatic body of art that will make you stare and question what you’re wearing.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I don’t believe I’m one to gather inspiration from my surroundings; books and trees and all. My pieces are thoughts and feelings which can’t be put into words, turned right side out and made into clothing, instead.

What advice would you give young designers following in your footsteps?

Don’t manipulate your creativity/artistic vision to suit the industry. Push what you’ve got into view and watch the industry absorb/adopt your style and flare.

How does your collection align with New Zealand Fashion Week’s sustainability theme?

Keeping Olli environmentally conscious is an important part about what I do. I have a strong passion for the care of the earth, and I aim to be an artist with small feet. Most pieces in this collection are fabricated from either recycled fabrics or 100% naturally dyed organic cotton.

Fast Five

Where do you shop?

I don’t really shop. Most of my money is spent at the supermarket. I make the majority of my clothes, and buy my basics from the op-shop.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

It saddens me to see sadness. I would replace all suffering with joy and maybe fly a little.

Fave café for the morning after?

Something fresh, a cold juice. Tank?

One thing that people would be surprised to know about you?

I’m 20 years old. I look 14 but I can show you ID.

What was the best movie/series/book/gig you’ve enjoyed lately?

Netflix doesn’t have a home on my computer, but I do love a good old-fashioned book. In saying that, I haven’t sat down and read for a short while now. My favourite wee book is one I found in a Byron Bay second hand store. It’s the translation of the French Art of Consciousness.

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