Supplied by The Matamata Chronicle
The world of high fashion is just another part of Neil Donald’s life.
The former Matamata College student has gone from high school award winning designer, to the world of high fashion as a production cutter with New Zealand fashion designer Zambesi.
Donald discovered his passion for fashion as a Year 12 student in Shirley Frew’s (known as Nana Frew) sewing class at Matamata College in the ’90s.
This was just after technology classes in wood, metal, home economics and sewing became compulsory.
Nana Frew said boys were able to get a taste for an industry they may have otherwise avoided.
“They didn’t want to do girly things, you tried to get them interested in something for themselves.”
Nana Frew said one day she found a pattern for a vest in camo fabric and it “just took off”.
“About a year ago, a man stopped me in the street and said ‘I still wear my hunting vest’,” she laughed.
She said Donald steered towards patterns and cutting and decided to carry on in the class after the obligatory term ended.
He had a knack for the art and was soon winning awards.
He placed third at Opotiki’s Fibre and Fleece and first at both the Bernina Sewing Centre Young Designers Fashion Awards in Cambridge for evening wear and the Smokefree Creative Menswear Awards in Christchurch.
After he finished school he enrolled in Wanganui Polytech’s fashion and design degree.
It was through his third year work placement that he was first introduced to Zambesi.
“On my last week, they asked if I could stay another week and help out, they were attending London Fashion Week for the first time and were short staffed.”
He was then asked if he wanted to stay on another week through his school holiday and work on his collection.
“Three months later I finished my course and they offered me a job.
“Within a week, I graduated, moved to Auckland and started working for Zambezi. I was quite lucky.”
Over the years he has held a variety of different roles which have introduced him to the technical and production side of fashion design.
“They let me grow throughout the company and given me opportunities.”
And back in his home town of Matamata, his first sewing teacher has followed his career closely and Nana Frew couldn’t be prouder.
“For a boy from little old country Matamata – into the cities. It’s a real accomplishment.”