Fiona Bongartz moved to New Zealand from Germany when she was 13. She feels very connected to Germany and the family she has there, but New Zealand is her home as well as she has grown up here. Bongartz has always loved the organisation and problem-solving along with designing and making. Therefore, she studied a double degree in marketing and fashion design at AUT which has allowed her to develop her creative and business skills simultaneously.
Growing up, Bongartz’s grandmother was the one who taught her how to sew. Her grandmother along with her great aunt always had creative projects for her, from sewing to painting, to woodworking and everything in between. Her love for fashion sparked when she received a book filled with blank fashion templates when she was nine.
“I fell in love with drawing and designing clothes which sparked my dream of becoming a fashion designer.”
During her last year at AUT, she learnt a lot about the sustainability front of fashion. Bongartz always had an interest in sustainability but felt unable to contribute to a change. However, through research, she discovered ways designers can play an important part in creating a more sustainable future.
“Designers are the ones that shape and create opportunities for garments to be used for longer, through timeless and practical pieces and by encouraging consumers to interact with and mend garments rather than disposing of them. This idea was a huge inspiration for this project, and I know it will affect my future work.”
For this collection, Bongartz wanted to approach sustainability from a user-perspective.
“Research tells me that if consumers had the skills and knowledge to use a garment extensively, replacement purchases can be delayed and reduced. However, clothing knowledge is passed on less and less due to the disposable nature of today’s fashion.”
In response to her research, Bongartz developed a range that utilises a few easily accessible tools and techniques. However, in return, it does require time and patience, which conveniently builds a bond between the person and the garment, a direct contrast to the fast-fashion conversation.
Bongartz was inspired by her own experience of learning to make and mend garments with her grandmother growing up. She drew on themes of heritage, referencing traditional designs such as Aran and Fair Isle jumpers, but through felting rather than knitting.
“The colours and shapes within the embroidery were inspired by my grandmother’s drawings and paintings which are quite playful and organic.”
Bethany Williams is a huge inspiration to Bongartz, with her playful unisex designs and sustainable and ethical values.
“I love her use of colour and recycled materials as well as involvement in her community.”
During her second year of studies, Bongartz interned at Stolen Girlfriends Club, which then led to a part-time position as a stockroom assistant.
“This was my first time seeing how a fashion brand operates from the inside, and I learnt about all the different people that make it possible and the work that goes into it.”
Within the next year, Bongartz hopes to launch a website to sell some of her designs as well as it being a place to share the processes and making techniques Bongartz uses.
“My work is not so much about producing or buying sustainable clothing, but rather about reducing production and consumption and finding ways to use and love the clothes we already have.”