Steven believes there are already enough textiles in New Zealand to keep local designers supplied.
“I don’t want to be buying new materials and possibly perpetuating demand, because that’s where I think a lot of the issues in the garment industry come from. Fabric production has so many issues and because New Zealand is so isolated everything has to be shipped here, but there’s already so much here. I’m sure if we stopped importing fabric, and stopped importing clothing, we’d be fine for another 50 to 100 years.”
Clothing, once considered precious, has now become disposable, he says.
“Clothing used to be something that was kind of like an heirloom. It was really, really precious, and for me – making everything by hand – it has become really precious again.
"When I was younger it was just something that you bought and wore and it wore out and you’d get new stuff. I think that psychology is quite a new way of thinking about clothing.”
Steven works exclusively with vintage textiles, which can still easily be sourced in New Zealand, he says.
“I find a lot in op shops. I look around for a lot of old sheets and drop cloths, fabric on the roll. After you’ve worked with fabric for a while you get a feel for what’s good and what’s not. There's still a lot of beautiful stuff that people pass on. Beautiful old tablecloths … people don’t really use linen tablecloths anymore.”
He also uses natural, seasonal dyes, which could be made from walnut hulls, acorns, coffee grinds or tea leaves.
“It’s coming up to elderberry season so I try and use whatever’s around. It’s not my main forte. Often you don’t get much colour at all. it’s about adding some depth.
“For me, it’s just a case of doing it on a scale that’s manageable and close to home.”