Designer's win inspires peers

17:00, Sep 06 2012
Toilet Paper Dress
OVERJOYED: Kapi Fonua and his aunts Lasela Saulala, left, and Ofa Tuipulotu celebrate his win.

Sitting in the audience at New Zealand Fashion Week gave Margaret Dooley the best view of a former student's award-winning work.

Kapi Fonua's dress, made entirely out of toilet tissue, kicked off the Designer Selection Show on Tuesday after being named the country's favourite paper gown.

Kapi was named a finalist in the Paper Dresses challenge back in July but was unaware he had won the competition, decided by public vote, until he saw his garment on the runway.

Toilet Paper Dress
CLEANING UP: Kapi Fonua's toilet paper dress on the catwalk at New Zealand Fashion Week.

It was a great moment for Ms Dooley, who has supported Kapi's fashion design aspirations since she taught him in fabric technology at Aorere College.

The 19-year-old always showed a creative flair, she says.

"In class he was always fiddling with material and he would dress up the mannequins every week.


"The kids from other classes would always come in and comment on the mannequins - what they liked or whether they liked last week's better - and that gave him the confidence to go on."

His passion was furthered by a trip to the World of Wearable Art award show in Wellington during his final year of school.

"I think that inspired him immensely," Ms Dooley says.

She expects winning the Paper Dresses challenge to work wonders for Kapi's future career.

"With all this publicity and the fact that he's done so well, he's going to go on and do great things.

"It's just such a thrill - you couldn't have been prouder of someone from South Auckland," she says.

"He's dedicated, he's interested, he's focused, he's calm - he's just got it."

Kapi beat 33 of his fellow New Zealand Fashion Tech students to win the challenge and hopes the victory will help him find a job in the industry.

The Mangere resident's paper gown used 12 rolls of toilet paper and took four weeks to complete.

The bodice features delicate pohutakawa leaf-inspired creations, stimulated by memories of his first New Zealand Christmas.

The garment's skirt is modelled on cascading petals.

The designer also recalls the intricate dresses he used to see on white Sundays in his native Tonga, when "all the little girls wear their best dresses".

Ms Dooley says Kapi's already inspiring today's Aorere College students to follow their dreams.

"I've got two students already saying they're going to fashion tech next year."

Manukau Courier