Introducing Debbie Shepherd: Sustainability, Design + Independence
At its heart, Debrasic is about independence. That’s why we were so thrilled when Debbie Shepherd walked through our door.
Debbie is a remarkably accomplished designer who built a successful clothing label in the U.K. then left it behind to pursue a dream of true independence here in New Zealand.
“What we loved about New Zealand is that it’s in such a strong position to be self-sufficient,” she said.
After visiting on a motorcycle tour in 2007, Debbie and her husband now make their home on a rural block with solar panels, a freshwater spring, a big veg garden, a few cheeky goats and a lifestyle that fuels creativity.
It didn’t take long for Debbie’s talent to garner attention here in New Zealand. Her design “City Lolita’s Homage to Gideon” (inspired by the 100th anniversary of the zipper and constructed entirely of upcycled metal zips) is currently on display at Te Papa after winning the Shell Sustainability Award in the 2012 World of Wearable Arts (WOW) Competition in Wellington.
The next year, her “Pearly Queen of Aotearoa” (pictured at right) won runner-up in the Cult Couture Auckland Fashion Awards.
Soon, she’ll be unveiling something special here at Debrasic. In the meantime, we’re proud to introduce Debbie Shepherd as a new friend and inspiring member of Debrasic’s creative team.
On her punk rock roots and early upcycling. “As a teenager, I was a punk rocker. I used to make myself a new outfit every week out of anything I could find. Mum taught me to sew on her old Singer treddle machine. Basically, I made clothing out of anything that was being thrown away.” Debbie went on to study art and design, focusing on textile creation for her A-levels before earning a B.A. Hons Degree with a specialty in fashion and textiles. Right after finishing university, she was “thrown into the deep end” with a job in industry designing ladies wear. Debbie then went on to teach fashion and textiles and develop her own label.
On following the fabric’s lead. “What I design and make is always led by fabrics. How do they drape? What shapes do you get? I focus on the textiles first, by manipulating materials and then creating a garment from them. Without textiles, you haven’t got fashion. When I first decided to do my own label, most of the work I did was experimenting with fabric. As a designer, fabrics are your palette of paints.”
On seeking creativity and self-sufficiency in New Zealand. “We originally moved here with a view to getting a lifestyle block and living off the grid as much as we could. We totally changed our lifestyle, and it had to be a complete change. What I wanted was the chance to put my energy into doing something more creative.”
On the award-winning Pearly Queen of Aotearoa. “It was a way of showing my heritage from the UK [inspired by the Pearly Kings and Queens] in a contemporary way, integrating that with Pacific and Maori culture, Tā moko and young street style. It uses digital textile print, which is at the forefront of textiles right now. I wanted both a flat surface and three-dimensional elements.” To create the fabric, Deborah photographed buttons, manipulated them in Photoshop, and digitally printed the fabric. She then manipulated that fabric with more cuts and buttons to create the garments.
On Kiwi fashion. “Overall, there’s really innovative fashion here, a strong Kiwi look. Because of the climate, fashion is very different in the North and South islands. The North island is quite laid-back. Whereas in the South Island, it’s very much about layering with a variety of heavier fabrics. When you look at it in terms of high fashion, there is a really strong and unique NZ look that sells all over the world. At London fashion week, Kiwi fashion was always sought after because it’s different.”
On collaborating with Debrasic. “It’s something that will fit in with the ethos that Debrasic is all about. We are both very much about sustainable ethics, sourcing local fabric when possible, using natural materials as much as possible, or using materials that have been recycled. You can’t design well if you’re designing for a label you haven’t got an affinity with. Now, I’m in the fortunate position to be creating independently and collaborating with Lauren, keeping it local and generating something that’s truly a limited edition, not mass-produced. It’s about being creative and fresh.”
We can’t wait to unveil the work that’s resulting from our collaboration and Debbie’s tremendous talent. Watch this space!