Liaina Malama has used her passion for creativity as a mode of self-expression since a very young age. “Although I was a very shy kid, I was always able to express myself through my passion for designing,” Malama shared. This creative passion only began to centre around fashion in Malama’s final year of high school after she created a fairy-tale themed wearable art costume. “This costume was selected to be displayed in a special exhibition at the Dowse Museum, and to this day I still look forward to watching every major red-carpet event so that I can see all the exquisite looks.” Following this, Malama met one of her first and most significant mentors who thrust her toward a career in fashion. “I met Nan Walden, who was the person who encouraged me to go to University and to study fashion design,” she shared. “She not only opened my eyes to the world of design but showed me the pathway to get where I am now.”
Malama’s graduate collection, Unfiltered Man, was highly conceptual and demonstrated her understanding of both the industry and broader societal influences. “I wanted to create a collection that banished the influence of toxic masculinity, stereotypes and gender norms towards men and their clothing choices,” revealed Malama. She was inspired by the lack of diversity and creative integrity she had witnessed in menswear today and chose to play on the stereotypes in a non-masculine and atypical way. “It is increasingly evident within the ready to wear retail sectors; menswear is heavily influenced by social aspects such as toxic masculinity, male gender norms, and stereotypes. This burdens the male identity and encourages a culture of conformity,” she explained. “Society puts so much emphasis on how men should dress or act accordingly to their fixed gender, but this creates an unhealthy culture of conformity. My designs are used to detach the stigma surrounding the ideal male identity in society through clothing.”
Looking ahead, Malama is excited to showcase her work throughout New Zealand and the world, gaining momentum for her brand. “The biggest opportunity would be if I was able to showcase my work on an international platform such as at the New Zealand Fashion Week or an event of equivalent stature.”
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