Pōneke's Freshest Designers Wonder What it Would Be Like to Never Grow Up

The playful models strode and skipped through the attentive, if somewhat drug-fucked, crowd. 

If you attended Wellington's 121 Festival you might’ve found yourself stumbling, hangover first, into a ball and bubble-filled forest on Saturday morning. Wide-eyed models in playful designs strode and skipped through the greenery as the attentive, if somewhat drug-fucked, crowd “ooh’d” and “aah’d”. 

Providing the festival with this ethereal experience among the EDM madness was Newlife Studios – self described as a platform bringing “​​theatrical fashion shows using recycled garments” to Wellington and beyond.  


Tucked away off Cuba Street, Newlife Studios shares its brick and mortar space with a collection of designers, photographers and creatives. The studio was created by co-founders James Warrender, Coltraine Bowden and Ava O'Brien as a way to platform the work of mostly Pōneke based fashion students and designers, including themselves. 

VICE chatted with Warrener about their journey from uni to their current show ‘Don’t Grow Up’. 

VICE: So tell me how Newlife Studios got started?

Warrener: Yeah, so New Life studios started off because we wanted to do our own shows, because we all studied fashion design and didn't realise how much work went into doing a full collection individually. So we reached out to a few friends who are all studying fashion design. We figured out what we wanted to showcase and knew we wanted it to be a theatrical show where the audience engages. Then we had the first show at the start of last year.

How frequently are you putting on these events?

We did two shows at the start of last year at the New Zealand Fine Arts Academy, and then we just had a really good response. I just wanted to keep going. 

Then 121 reached out to us to do a show, maybe like, three or four months after that. So we did a show down at Cambridge Terrace that was super grungy and that included five designers. Then, after that, 121 asked us to do a show at the festival, and we'd already been working on a show during that time, the Don’t Grow Up show. 


Sick. With Don’t Grow Up, what was the inspiration behind that?

Yeah. So for the Don’t Grow Up show, we wanted to challenge the designers from what they usually do. So normally we'll write a brief and the inspo for this one was for them to try to design an outfit that, for them, reflected on their childhood.

When you're younger the world's your oyster, you could be an astronaut, you could be Superman. The designers had to think about what they wanted to be when they were younger. And then use that as the inspiration to create the garments.

VICE attended the performance of Don’t Grow Up at 121 Festival, which featured some incredible talent – and we’ve got the pics to prove it. 


Design by Finnly @fringes.garments, image by Jamie Leith


Design by Izzy Spencer-Owen @Izzy Spencer-Owen, image by Jamie Leith


Designs from Glo, Olivia Ferguson @equilibriumojf, El Reilly @elby_elreilly and Henry Calkin @thehenrycalkin, image by Jamie Leith


Design and image by Glo 蔡杰盈 @gloc.comm


Model is joined by designer, Cullen, image by Jamie Leith


Designs by Henry Calkin @thehenrycalkin, image by Jamie Leith


Design by Glo 蔡杰盈 @gloc.comm, image by Jamie Leith


Design by Glo 蔡杰盈 @gloc.comm, image by Jamie Leith


Models are joined by designer Laurence Sabrine @laurencesabrine, image by Jamie Leith


Design by Lucia Mae @lucia.mae, image by Jamie Leith

image_6483441 (1).JPG

Design and image by Glo 蔡杰盈 @gloc.comm


Co-founders Ava O'Brien @bitchassobrien, James Warrender @warrenderjamesaw (Coltraine Bowden @domedepot not pictured) and designer Dimock @Dimock.etc, image by Jamie Leith

121 Fashion Show Video - Film & Edit by Nathan Blundell 

Rachel Barker is a writer / producer at VICE NZ in Aotearoa.