Southland fashion issues just conservativeness

Southland has for years been renowned for its lack of fashion sense but some Southlanders beleive the real issue is the region’s conservative nature.


Scrawling through pages of information on Southland it is not unlikely for the word “conservative” to crop up.

Apparently though, Mayor Tim Shadbolt is the region’s knight in shining armour whose arrival in 1992 was  just in time to pull Invercargill from its conservative image in what has been dubbed on the Te ara website as ‘the Shadbolt era’.

Judged from afar

Southland has for years been notoriously known by most of the country as a hick town where everyone is behind the times and the dress code is about 10-years-old.

In 2001 Lonely Planet and Let’s Go New Zealand guide books said Southland produced people who donned bad haircuts and checked shirts but even then Southlanders were biting back, feeling as though they were being perceived negatively by people who had hardly even visited the area.

Southland designer Warwick Woodfield begs to differ.

Having moved to Southland in 2003 he said he always thought Invercargill had a high standard of dress.

“Invercargill people have always dressed well. I’ve always thought that.”

He said he put it down to people feeling they had to prove themselves due to the fact that Southland was right at the bottom of the country and people were aware of the reputation it had. He even went as far as to say Southlanders were more fashionable than most of New Zealand.  

It seems Mr Woodfield wouldn’t want to be anywhere else when it comes to stylish locations.

 He did, however, agree that Southland was perhaps not the most liberal city in New Zealand in a sense where difference is not generally embraced. I guess you could call it old fashioned.

He said Southlanders were becoming more global and open now and were beginning to think “outward rather than inward”.

Well, that’s a start at least.

Conservative nature

A passionately well dressed Invercargill boutique owner who did want to be identified as someone criticising Southland’s dress code said she had not seen Southland up the ante when it came to fashion in her 24 years of owning her store.

She said black was still the go-to outfit for almost every woman which resulted in everyone looking the same, and not in a good way.

“They all look like they should be at home doing house work”.

Having clearly thought hard about the issue on a day to day basis, she described her theory of the trend as a vicious cycle in which everyone wore black to fit in which resulted in everyone being too afraid to wear colour as it would stand out like a sore thumb.

She said the younger students were bringing a bit of style to the city but it was the older women who were stuck in what they felt comfortable in.

Woman turned 20 and left fashion behind, she said.

“They are frightened of people looking (at them).”

It seems the step to bringing light into Southland wardrobes could be as simple as making people feel confident enough to wear what they want without worrying about what everyone else is doing.

Awards create hype

CEO of Gore’s Hokonui Fashion Design Awards, Heather Paterson, said the awards had put Southland on the map when it came to fashion.

“It changed the idea of what Southland’s all about” she said.

The fact the Hokonui awards are held in Gore of all places, the country’s notorious bogan capital, is a question on a lot of people’s minds, but the fact that it has become so big is mind blowing. Somehow though, it just seems to work.

Hokonui has been slowly evolving during its 23 years, becoming bigger and creating hype around New Zealand.

Beginning as a competition on a radio show, the awards are now drawing the country’s biggest designers to Southland every year as the show is the only one of its kind, and Paterson said it would not have the same effect anywhere else.

She said noted designers such as Trelise Cooper have commented on Southland’s clean, green atmosphere and the hard work that gets put in by volunteers to be able to bring the show together.

Something like this would be hard to have in the likes of Auckland, she said.

Having a specific category for local designers, the show proves that Southland is a land of more than just gumboots and swannies.

The rest of the country looked down on us, but Hokonui gives us a good name, Paterson said.

“We are slowly changing people’s ideas. We can dress well and be up there too.”

Weather affects choices

SIT fashion programme manager Paulette Caulton took over the fashion department in 2010 and has since made many improvements, bringing the quality of the courses to a new level.

The result has been an increase in numbers to the fashion courses which brings a slight increase of style savvy students to the region.

Caulton said she thought the cold weather had a lot to do with people’s fashion choices, or lack there of, as people chose to be warm and comfortable and it was hard to be warm and stylish at the same time.

Wearing something a bit different was the “exception rather than the rule”.

She said she could not see the style situation improving as the weather would always stay the same.

The lack of fashionable people in Southland concerns music student Manea John who was unimpressed with the boring nature of clothing.

She said she noticed people found it strange when someone wore high heels. Everyone would notice.

It just goes to show the conservative nature of the society in a case of tall poppy syndrome.

Maybe the problem isn’t that people are clueless about fashion, the problem is that the thought of standing out from others scares them.

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Sandy Point ideas welcome

Sandy Point could soon be given a makeover after the public have been given the option of placing submissions.


A review of one of Invercargill’s most prominent domains is being carried out to give the public the option to add on or change it.


Sandy Point is currently used for over 50 recreational activities such as car racing, rowing, golfing, paint balling and running but a request for freehold land could mean the 2000 hectare area could be sold off for commercial use such as restaurants.


Parks manager Robin Pagan said after an “extensive makeover” 10 years ago the area was accommodating most people’s needs so he did not expect too much change this time.


Increased use 

He said there was more recreational use of the land now than in previous years as people were beginning to realise how great the area was.


“It’s a huge, big playground”.


Valuable area

Sandy Point has a history of Maori settlers dating back to before Invercargill became a township and is part of the beach where Burt Munro broke records on his Indian motorcycle so it is an important piece of land.


Waiting for the submissions to be finalised would be a long process, Mr Pagan said.

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“Queer” youths encourage support in Southland

Southland is conservative compared with the rest of the country when it comes to accepting gay and lesbian residents as few opportunities are available for queer youths.


“Old school” Southland does not offer many opportunities for the gay and lesbian community so queer youths are taking it upon themselves to give support.


St Peters College pupil Hunter Calder, 15, has created the Southland Gay Straight Alliance group on Facebook after attending “queer” gatherings across the country. He is doing his best to encourage the same openness in the southern region.


One of Invercargill’s only gay and lesbian support groups SGnLS (Southland Gay and Lesbian Support) say on their Facebook page that they go for a drink occasionally and do not appear to be very active.


Opportunities limited

An 18-year-old Invercargill student who is also involved in Southland Gay Straight Alliance said there were not enough gay support groups in Southland. He said SGnLS was “sporadic” and focussed on older people by going to bars which youths could not access.


He said he felt he had to help out and make being gay easier for the younger generations. “It’s difficult to come out. There is not enough support at all. Guidance councillors aren’t appealing.”


He said the conservative Southland community was not as accepting as other regions such as Christchurch which was bigger and had a larger variety of people.


“Southland’s not the creative, cultural capital of the world.”


He said there was “too much hate in schools”, especially among younger children who had thrown food and liquid at him. He said not making a big deal that you were gay was the easiest way to live here.


Southland still conservative

A former Gore resident said he did not “come out” until he had left Gore and had moved to study in Dunedin as there was a broader gay community. He said Southlanders had “old school views” such as men needing to be “macho” and being gay was rarely spoken of.


 He said he knew he was different from age six when he remembered having a “weird fascination with Daniel Carter”. He waited until he was 20 to tell his friends he was gay.


The third year medical student at the University of Otago said he had been to a few gay parties in Dunedin and knew of groups there but was not aware of any support like that in Southland.

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SIT graduate taking off


Taryn creates a master piece


Promising SIT graduate plans to move abroad and gain the experience she needs to become a well known designer.




Taryn Casci sits calmly in a self-made dress as she chats enthusiastically about her desire to become a fashion designer despite the mass she has on her plate organising the Chrysalis 2011 Graduate Show.


The self assured SIT fashion diploma graduate is an extremely ambitious young woman who gets involved and gives 100 per cent whenever she gets the chance. This rare quality and passion is the exact attitude needed for success in an industry that is extremely difficult to succeed in.


 Family affair

Largely influenced by her mother, who owned her own clothing store, the 24-year-old grew up in Wellsford watching her work in the cutting room and learnt how to sew when she was about 10.


Her supportive mother made most of Taryn’s clothes when she was growing up and in a case of like mother, like daughter, and Taryn now does the same.


“It’s in my blood,” she said.


Surprisingly, it was not always set in stone that Taryn would become a fashion designer.


An epiphany near her 21st birthday saw her “freaking out about life’’ after having spent several years in the hospitality business. A talk with her high school fashion teacher saw her enrolling in SIT’s Certificate of Pattern Making and Garment Construction, and she has not looked back to her career as a “sandwich artist” since.


“I knew there was more to life,” she said. 


Taking off

Three years later Taryn feels she has learnt all she needs to leave the course with a diploma instead of finishing the degree as most of her class mates have chosen.


Her passion for fashion was evident even at school where she was the only student left in her fashion design class by sixth form giving her rare one on one time with her teacher.


 Her plan for next year is to move to Melbourne and apply for every job available that will help her on her way to starting her own label in five or six years, with her ideal job being to work for a magazine or as a designer. 


She said she wanted to learn “every aspect of fashion”.


“I thought I knew a lot… I didn’t,” she said, when asked how much she had learnt from the diploma compared with before she started.


She said the smaller numbers in SIT’s fashion classes allowed for a better quality of learning as teachers were able to give more one on one time to each student.


The course made her a much better designer as she learnt the finer details and groundwork of the art.


“I have a better understanding of how some things are constructed.”


Long way to go

 Taryn was still undecided on what her design style was but said she was looking towards quirky, high end street wear.


Making it in the fashion industry is no easy feat but Taryn is aware of the journey she has ahead of her.


“I’m really hard working and willing to prove myself.”

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Noise complaints rise

Officers from TV3’s program Noise Control stand stauch

Noise control officers are often called to housing areas in Invercargill with the number of calls varying depending on the season and the area.


The number of noise control complaints in Invercargill is rising due to an increase in the number of house parties and a lower tolerance for noisy neighbours says Invercargill City Council senior environmental health officer Sudhir Kumar.


Noise control was called from all areas of the city although south Invercargill was where the majority of complaints came from. It also depended on the season, with almost twice as many being reported in summer than winter.


SIT student Kincade Kapea said noise control was called to at least one of the group of flats in his residence in Tyne St about twice a week during casual drinks or parties.


Neighbours at war

He said he the enforcement officers were generally fair as the music sometimes got too loud but had been let off a few times when the noise limits had not been breached.


“I reckon it’s the same person over reacting. They just don’t like us’’ he said.


Student housing areas possible fix

Mr Kapea said introducing a specific student housing area to Invercargill would be beneficial as families would not be amongst it and there would be fewer issues with loud noise.


Mr Kumar said a student housing area would not necessarily reduce the amount of complaints being reported as they were often not regarding student activities.


Enforcement officers determine if noise is unacceptable by calculating a range of factors including time of day, how often the noise occurs and the volume of the noise.

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Hoax stories dominating media

Hoax news stories are becoming too common amongst media outlets as the desire for fast news wins over accuracy.

Continue reading

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