I believe that the right choice in regards to the environment should be as commonplace as using your manners,” says Auckland designer, Tuhirangi Blair. “There is plenty of dialogue for people to become informed.”
Tuhirangi walks it like he talks it, having founded Lucky Dip, a fashion brand that crafts its clothing—only shirts—from repurposed, vintage, and dead stock textiles. “Vintage material has unique character,” he adds. “The story of each piece can be inspiring. There is a great synergy in particular between the pairing of vintage fabrics and the styles of shirt I make.”
Tuhirangi sources his fabrics from vintage stores and op shops, as well as receiving donations from “supporters who have a surplus of belongings”.
“All shirts are cut and crafted by hand by myself,” he says. “This means that everything is tightly produced and elevates garments to a higher standard.”
With a “flexible production schedule”, Tuhirangi stresses that he is able to increase his eco-efficiency by choosing what to make depending on what styles and sizes need to be “topped up”, and on what styles are most appropriate to any given fabric type.
“Fashion is one of the most wasteful and polluting industries in the world, and change has been slow,” laments the designer. “Some industry players have started moving away from the ‘take make waste’ model to a more circular approach. The Lucky Dip model of converting recycled textiles by hand into high quality, enduring shirts fits into this well.”
As the brand name implies, each Lucky Dip creation is one of a kind. Tuhirangi emphasises his “commitment to quality” and desire to embrace “the unique idiosyncrasies of vintage textiles” and to “bring new life to them”.
“People appear to be drawn to the detailing of the shirts, and the unique selection of fabrics,” he says. “The story of the fabric, the location from where it was sourced, and its former life—whether it was a bed sheet, or a curtain or whatever else.”
Lucky Dip customers, he adds, are “forward thinkers, respectful, and quietly confident within a crowd”: “They are interested in, and value, the design and quality of the garments that they wear.”
Tuhirangi says that he was a “quiet and observant” kid with an “active imagination”. Having been raised by his whole family, he feels blessed to have been exposed to a variety of experiences very early on. Hanging out a lot with adults as a child, he says, was influential in his creative development. His interest in fashion blossomed from a spell at Workshop in 2009, “spending time with well-established brands” while still at high school (he would later rejoin the company as a menswear designer).
‘You do not achieve anything by waiting around’, he says is advice that has always stuck with him, and it’s advice that he has truly taken to heart. Having graduated from Auckland University of Technology, Tuhirangi headed to New York to hone his craft while interning at Nepenthes. It was during his time in the Big Apple that he was inspired to establish Lucky Dip.
“The culture, Daiki Suzuki and Nepenthes New York, and the opportunity to experience the diverse food, music and arts offerings are what attracted me to the city,” he says. “My days off were spent travelling throughout the five boroughs, trying new food, while the evenings were spent attending performances and supporting the homies.”
With his workplace based in the “heart of the Garment District”, suppliers and manufacturers were within walking distance, allowing Tuhirangi to visit regularly and “get an insight into how a garment is produced”.
“The experience was invaluable in regards to developing an understanding of how internationally renowned brands work, and the value of local manufacturing,” he says. “In New York, people are a lot more open to discussing their creative practices and work. Being comfortable talking about my craft is the biggest takeaway from my time overseas.”
With that in mind, Tuhirangi will be offering others a window into his working philosophy with a series of pop-up-type events called the Lucky Dip Trunk Shows, with one running from 22-28 July at Ponsonby Central. “The aim is to introduce people to the brand, and improve the understanding of, and feel for, the shirts,” he says. “The space will showcase newly created shirts and provide an insight into my everyday process.”
If anyone has old material or garments that they would like to koha to Lucky Dip, Tuhirangi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org