Green Kiwi tux heads to Oscars red carpet

CALEB HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 23/02/2014
Suzy Amis Cameron, left, and designer Jomnarn Dul
LOREN DOUGAN/Fairfax NZ
CONNECTIONS: Suzy Amis Cameron, left, and designer Jomnarn Dul.

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The wife of an Oscar winner and the daughter of Cambodian refugees met on a Wairarapa farm yesterday over an unlikely object - a tuxedo made partly of recycled bottles, to be worn by a vampire.

When Suzy Amis-Cameron, wife of blockbuster director James Cameron, was told in a Los Angeles meeting that the winner of her eco-fashion competition was from New Zealand she was amazed: "The connection couldn't be more meaningful than having the winner be from our new home."

The new menswear section of Amis-Cameron's ecologically conscious fashion design competition, Red Carpet Green Dress, was won by Hallenstein Brothers' designer Jomnarn Dul, whose parents fled to New Zealand from Cambodia via a Thai refugee camp.

There, her mother sewed clothes for people who had fled with nothing; yesterday, the Aucklander was hosted by Amis-Cameron at her Wairarapa farm to celebrate the success, which will see Dul's design worn on the red carpet at next Sunday's Oscars by actor Kellan Lutz, who played vampire Emmett Cullen in the Twilight movies.

Former model and actress Amis-Cameron, 52, founded the design competition five years ago, inspired by her husband's box office record-breaking film, Avatar, which has a strong conservation message.

"We were in one of our brain-mash pow-wows and someone said, why don't we do a dress-design competition?"

The motivation was fundraising for her conservation-oriented, not-for-profit MUSE School in California, founded with sister Rebecca Amis nine years ago, which provides scholarships to half its students.

Each year since, the winning gown, made of sustainably produced fabrics, has been worn by an actress on the red carpet at the Academy Awards.

Amis-Cameron, a mother of three children with Cameron, as well as one from a previous marriage and one from one of Cameron's previous marriage, tries to dress her family in fabrics which were neither toxic for the planet, nor for their bodies, and made without "destroying lives" in sweat-shops.

"It's a much, much bigger issue for me, it's not just a pretty dress to wear on the red carpet . . . Everybody wears clothes."

Dul, who graduated with an excellence award from AUT's fashion school two years ago, won the competition with a variation on a tuxedo she originally designed for Hallensteins' Ekocycle suit range, developed with Black Eyed Peas frontman and sometime suit designer, William Adams (known as will.i.am).

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Hamilton-born Dul, 23, said designing clothes "came naturally" because of the role they played in her family's survival.

The Twilight fan was still processing the fact Lutz would wear her suit: "When I found out it was him I was like, oh my goodness, he is beautiful."

The Camerons and their children Elizabeth Rose, 7, Quinn, 10, Claire, 12 "loved" living at the Pounui Ridge property south of Featherston, where they have been based since Cameron applied for residency and the Overseas Investment Office green-lighted the purchase in 2012.

The latest stay has lasted three months. "We're leaving on Wednesday and my heart is so sad . . . this is home now."

- Sunday Star Times

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