Andre Johnston grew up in a small country town north of Gore called Waikaka. In the small rural farming community, her parents owned the local garage and a small farm. She found her love for sewing in Gore High School in the 90's. "I had an amazing sewing teacher who really pushed my level of skills," Johnston said. In 6th form at school she won the Hetanz Make & Model Competition where she awarded first place in the Daywear Section, the Lingerie Section, second place in the Young Designer Section and walked away as the Overall Winner. The same year, she won her high school's Clothing & Textile Prize and won the Otago Polytechnic Scholarship for the School of Fashion and Design. She moved to Dunedin the year after to complete her scholarship at Otago Polytechnic and graduated with a Bachelor of Design in 2002. After graduating, Johnston worked as a machinist at Tamahine Knitwear for a few years before returning home to Gore. Johnston is currently looking after her two children while working part-time at Van de Water Jewellers. She spends her spare time working on new creations for various fashion awards and competitions throughout New Zealand.
As a young girl, Johnston loved craft projects and making new clothes for her Barbies, which most of them she sewed by hand. Her mother, Viv Tamblyn, made a lot of her clothes growing up and even a ball gown or two. "My great grandmother was an amazing sewer and she never used a pattern. She cut straight from the fabric," she said. Her aunt taught her how to cross-stitch and other embroidery techniques when Johnston was 10-years-old. "As far back as I can remember, I have always been creative," she explained. Johnston says there are also some very talented florists in her family and said this was a passion of hers as well.
She has been entering the Hokonui Fashion Design Awards since 1998 and this year Johnston set out to do something different. The elegant gown was structured from an open mesh fabric that featured cross-stitched flowers. Using DMC embroidery cotton she was able to use the holes in the mesh as a grid for the cross-stitching. Overall, the garment took 240 hours to complete. "It's always such a huge feeling of success and pride to see your own designs being modeled on the catwalk," Johnston said. It has always her ultimate dream to win the overall prize and this year her dream finally came true. Winning the Nightlife section as well was icing on the cake. Now Johnston has over 20 awards under her belt in the fashion industry. Her next dream to come true is to start up her own label, which she will begin to look into seriously next year after her youngest child starts school. "I would love to do something on a small scale. Designing and creating high quality, high-fashion womenswear with an edgy streetwear feel, but I also want to continue designing one-off pieces, as those are the designs that are special."