Ready to witness a fashion revolution? All you need to do is take a look at the designs that were on display at The Y's Walk the Line fashion event 2023, NZ's only youth run fashion show where young people can showcase their talents during NZ Fashion Week.

Walk the Line, in association with New Zealand Fashion Week, is an innovative platform where young designers aged 13 to 18 can put their creations on a world stage. The largest scale initiative of its kind, Walk the Line is open to secondary school students nationwide, with over 60 budding designers featured in the 2023 event.

Walk the Line showcases the latest trends and innovations from the next generation of Kiwi designers, who have poured their passion and creativity into their collections. From streetwear to couture, from casual to formal, from adaptive to accessible, the diversity and originality of the garments on display was amazing.

The Y's Walk the Line fashion event 2023 was a dazzling display of young talent and creativity, this youth run fashion show took over the runway during NZ Fashion Week. The audience was treated to a feast of colours, textures, and shapes, as well as some clever and innovative solutions to fashion challenges. The event was a testament to the passion and potential of our local youth, who readily demonstrated their fashion prowess.

This year’s show was a success and a showcase of our rangatahi and their imagination and skill. The event featured 60 young designers who presented their collections in various genres and styles. The show was also praised for its diversity and originality, as well as its solutions to fashion challenges. The show was the largest event of its kind in the country and the only one run by youth for youth. Compared to previous years, the show just continues to improve in terms of quality, variety, and innovation. Walk the Line received positive feedback from the industry experts and the audience and was a great opportunity for the young designers to gain exposure and experience in the fashion world.

Johannah Matanguihan, one of our designers, recounts her experience: “it was a very fun and valuable experience with all our hard work paying off as it gave me insight into what being part of the fashion industry was like. Seeing all the other designs was exhilarating and it just goes to show how everyone has their own styles and preferences, which is the beauty of fashion: there is always something for everyone.”

Some of the fashion challenges addressed in this year’s show were:

• How to create sustainable and ethical fashion that does not compromise on quality, style, or innovation. Some of the designers used recycled, organic, or biodegradable materials, as well as natural dyes and low-impact processes, to create their collections.

• How to design for different body types, abilities, and preferences. Our designers created adaptive and accessible garments that catered to the needs of people with disabilities, injuries, or medical conditions. They also incorporated features such as adjustable straps, zippers, buttons, and Velcro, as well as sensory-friendly fabrics and colors.

• How to express one’s identity and culture through fashion. These designers drew inspiration from their own backgrounds, heritage, and experiences, and incorporated elements such as patterns, symbols, colours, and motifs that reflected their identity and culture.

• How to use technology and innovation to enhance fashion. Some of the designers experimented with artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and digital fabrication to create new and exciting ways of designing, producing, and presenting fashion.

“Creating my own garment and seeing it on the runway was a thrilling experience. Thanks to this event, which is run by YMCA’s Raise Up team, I met and connected with many talented designers from around the country, hearing the inspiration behind their remarkable garments. Being a part of Walk the Line was an incredible experience that showed me a little glimpse into what it might be like working in the fashion industry,” agrees Holly Pukeiti.

In addition to the young fashion talent, the event itself is organized and delivered by high school aged Raise Up Crew. Echoing the ethos of The Y’s youth development programme, Raise Up, Walk the Line is run completely by youth, for youth. From the lighting and sound, stage setting and promotions, right through to the models and designs themselves of course, our rangatahi are behind this must-see event – a fashion phenomenon that astounds in its professionalism.

Getting the chance to build the event and working with experts in the field and learning tonnes, the planning and backstage crew, as well as those on the stage, all got a taste of creating a big event and the mahi involved. One of our Raise Up crew members, Fe'ao Havea, partnered with our professional photographer to be our Crew photographer, gaining insider knowledge and inspiration for her future. Telling us how it felt to be there at the end of the runway taking photos of the models as they walked down the catwalk, Fe’ao said “I would like to say that it was just a wonderful experience, and I loved every minute of it! It was certainly a little stressful, but I loved being right up the front and seeing the smile of the models as they walked and displayed for the audience their hard efforts and talent. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity, it has inspired me to look more into photography!”

Even the ones running the show, our amazing MCs Krisha and Shreya, were from our Raise Up community. “As someone who loves fashion, Mcing for Walk the Line was an amazing opportunity. It allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and be more confident about myself. I loved being able to present through the recording and live Mcing. Meeting the lovely models and designers was definitely my favourite part, it was amazing to see such talent within my age group. Something that stuck with me from this experience was that I was able to announce the winners with Shreya and that was something that I felt very proud about! I really enjoyed the whole process of Walk the Line from filming to the dress rehearsal all the way to fashion show itself, it is an experience that I will hold close to my heart!”

Walk the Line is not only a wonderful chance for young creative minds to showcase their fashion skills, but also a stepping-stone for those who aspire to work in the industry. Many former Walk the Line participants have achieved their dreams of becoming professional fashion designers. Our event has supported the launch of young Kiwi designers, reaching the heights of London Fashion Week and Vogue. And as the only youth-led fashion event of its kind in New Zealand, the lives of those behind the curtain are being enriched by the real-world event management and back of house skills gained.

Sammy Udomdej agrees, with ambitions to continue growing as a designer: “participating in Walk the Line was honestly one of the best highlights of the year. The way I see it, this event allows young designers like myself to self-express and take creative liberty through fashion design. It's experimentation and personal development, and it allows us to express our views on beauty through garments. I am thankful to have participated, because it really gives more experience and allows young designers to prosper. I'm glad to have walked away with 'best styling' award because it's something I am more than passionate about. Definitely an event to participate in!”

There were five categories at this year's show. These embodied the passion of youth design through Sustainability, High Fashion, Open Design, Streetwear, and our annual themed category. Walk The Line aims to be a platform for the power of youth voice on a global stage. Each year, in consultation with young people, we choose a new them to spark our designer's creativity. The overall theme for 2023, "We're Talking, Are you Listening?" explored the power and passion of young people. Walk the Line offers a unique opportunity for young designers to make their mark on the global stage through their own creative process. This theme sought to draw out a response from the audience and empower the next generation of change makers within the fashion community.

Our winner of this category, Amelia, shared with us “for me, Walk the Line was an opportunity that allowed me to see a bit more of what the fashion industry is about through the celebration of fashion week here in New Zealand. I found it highly beneficial to be backstage throughout the process, learning to model, construct and appreciate the talent we have as youth when it comes to fashion.”

Each of the participants we talked to had one person they all wanted to celebrate and thank especially – our wonderful event organiser Donna DeQuaasteniet. Her massive mahi in coordinating everything from eliciting submissions, working with schools, guiding young designers, organising venue and judges etc. was undeniable, and the participants’ praise is well-deserved.

Walk the Line 2023 was more than just a fashion show. It was a celebration of youth, creativity, and diversity. It was a platform for young people to express themselves, challenge themselves, and inspire others. It was a glimpse into the future of fashion, where innovation, sustainability, and inclusivity are the norm. If you see your future in fashion or know of any young person who aspires to showcase their talent in the fashion and modelling industry, take your first step with Walk the Line. You might be surprised by what you can achieve when you walk the line with confidence and flair.