Adam Wheatley, Massey University

In 2002, Adam Wheatley and his family immigrated from the UK to New Zealand. Growing up in Auckland, Wheatley spent his first two years of his degree at AUT and then decided to switch to Massey in Wellington. “I needed to explore a fresh environment and move to somewhere new, so I chose to finish my bachelors in Wellington.” Fashion was something Wheatley never really cared about until 2012 when he was blown away by how ridiculous it all seemed. “I then got intrigued by it all and have been sucked into loving it ever since.”

Intrigued by the creativity in the industry, Wheatley kept looking into fashion more until he decided that designing clothes was what he wanted to do. Pushing himself to always do better and not to be scared to stand his ground was his most valuable lesson while studying. “Make your own decisions,” he said. “Failure is not always a bad thing.”

His graduate collection was based on the shift in subculture due to the internet globalising everything. Wheatley wanted to recreate a sense of subculture as he believes clothing makes consumers feel a belonging to particular communities. “I’ve made an effort to create a more commercial collection with pieces that men can relate to while also pushing their confidence to be able to dress more independently.” The uniqueness of each garment is found in the details rather than overall. The idea is that every piece should be interchangeable with all types of clothing whether they are in his collection or not. “I want someone to be able to buy a shirt and for it to work with their aesthetic no matter who they are.”

Another collection by Wheatley focused on his love for chef uniforms where Wheatley played with the context of a chef uniform using materials resembling tea towels and switching regular garment silhouettes into apron-type silhouettes or the idea of throwing and tying parts of garments over the shoulder or waist like tea towels.

Wheatley believes that with menswear, men now seem to care a lot more about what they wear and said the market is growing for good quality menswear. “I just worry whether those who don’t understand how a garment is made can appreciate good quality. I think slowly this is happening,” he said. “Possibly the amount of advertising and endorsement through celebrity culture has changed the way men are thinking about fashion.”

People inspire Wheatley’s work, specifically behaviour and quirky characteristics spark ideas. While his inspiration changes constantly, his friends are always a driving factor.

Design is Wheatley’s passion. “Nothing beats coming up with a good idea. Sewing is great, but only when you know what you’re doing.” J W Anderson was one of the designers who pushed him into being more open minded with design. “Raf Simons during his time at Jil Sander was fantastic,” he added. “Both Dries Van Noten and Yohji Yamamoto I have always respected for creating sellable pieces without going overboard with design. Their combination of commercial clothing put with something different whether it was fabric, or patternmaking, is an approach I want to follow in my design.”

 Moving deeper into his career, Wheatley said his biggest challenge is to find out who he is as a designer and what makes one of his garments different to the rest of the world.

The 21-year-old has so much time to work hard to try and build something for himself and is lucky to have a clear idea of what he needs to work towards. “I’m aiming to start something next year in Auckland.”