New Zealand Fashion Week 2017 is well underway. And oddly enough, the camera crews aren't exclusively following Zambesi, Kate Sylvester, and Huffer. They're also curious about a young man from Wainuiomata, who used to roof houses for a living. Enter, Jerome Taylor.
What is Not For You and Jerome Taylor?
Jerome Taylor is the new kid on the block, but he's already creating waves in the fashion world with his grunge, street-style clothing label for men 'Not For You'. Jerome doesn't play it safe and says his latest collection, which he just showed on Tuesday this week in the 'New Generation' show of New Zealand Fashion week is based on homelessness. His first collection was based on his experience of the Justice system to gain custody of his daughter. Yeezy, it ain't.
"I wanted to give men armour - I see my label as armour for the everyday man. I want to create clothing that helps you feel your absolute best, like when you just got a haircut. That shows. People will pick up on your attitude. That's the kind of clothing I want to create - to help people be the best version of themselves, no matter what they're going through" he says.
The minute you meet Jerome, you equally want to like him, revere him and have a beer with him. He's passionate, eloquent and honest about what drove him into the fashion industry, and doesn't pretend to have all the answers. Despite being a recent newcomer, Jerome has thrown everything he has at making this dream of being a fashion designer come alive. And now the heat is on to handle the excitement and pressure of fashion week, taking his collection to the next level.
How did he get here?
Jerome was born in Wainuiomata. “I was brought up in Wainui and lived there my whole life. My Dad used to be an auctioneer for vegetables. My Mum was a stay at home mum” Jerome explains “My Dad lost his job and he couldn’t get back on his feet so my mum started working – she worked for Shona McFarlan.” Jerome’s parents separated, so his Mum took on other jobs. She’d babysit, clean, whatever it took, while Jerome’s older siblings looked after him.
However, whatever difficulties at home he had, Jerome had a great group of friends. “I have friends still who I met at Kindergarten. We used to get up to antics. We built a fort, a kind of cabin really, which we had beds in for people to stay in (unsurprisingly some of those mates are builders now). We’d tell our parents that we were going to stay at one another’s houses and would go and drink and then sleep in this tree house” Jerome says.
Jerome struggled with learning in the school environment. “It wasn’t my cup of tea. I struggled with it from a young age, reading, and maths. I had to do special classes and then that went on through High school. I was good with creative stuff, or PE But I started to think I was stupid, and then I accepted it. I acted out because of it so, in the end, I was kicked out of High School” he explains. Jerome became a roofer after being kicked out. “I had a part time job at Amazon in the Hutt, but they wouldn’t give me time off to go to Rhythm and Vines music festival when I was 18. I quit and then they gave me back the job, but I pulled the same thing again a few months later. So at that point, I picked out roofing” Jerome says.
While roofing, Jerome met someone who’d been living with his sister in her garage. “I was like, is this what I’m going to turn out like. He had a bit of a drinking problem, but even the guys who were working super hard weren’t going to get another pay rise. I didn’t want to start my own company because I didn’t like roofing very much, so I couldn’t see that working for me” he recalls.
Jerome had been practicing his art and had an exhibition at a café. A brand saw the images and wanted to use his pictures on their t-shirts. Jerome decided to do it himself and screen print tops. He got them into Empire Skate shop in Lower Hutt. “That was my first time in fashion. I got into it from my love of art and making stuff” Jerome explains.
After a while of making t-shirts with his friend, Jerome found he didn’t sell enough to make his money back. He went on the dole and decided to use it to his advantage. He signed up for a business course. “I was never an academic, so going to do a business course was a big deal for me. I passed and got a certificate. I didn’t want people to see my book in class because no one else would be able to read my writing” he remembers.
After finishing the course, Jerome went online and applied for every job he thought he could do, no matter what the pay, from Glazer to postman. He ended up being accepted to do work in a call center where he worked evenings. It was around this time that Jerome started to want to customise his tees himself. He started to see a seamstress, who he'd ask to alter the clothes. Eventually, she asked Jerome whether he'd like to learn to sew from her. "She taught me what she knew and then with the money from my job I bought a sewing machine, and I stopped going to her. And then I made the decision to study" he says.
Where did he study fashion and what training has he done in prep for Not For You?
Jerome went to the NZ Fashion Tech, where he studied for 3 years. He also got a Prime Ministers Scholarship to India. "I entered into the Resene Challenge where they pick you to show your clothes in Fashion Week if you are good enough. I think they still do it. Anyway, I applied for this scholarship and I was the only one who didn't get in in Wellington. Someone else later backed out in, and then I really busted my guts out to make an impression to show them I deserved to be chosen to go. I was up against everyone in Auckland but I made it my goal."
Jerome was then fortunate enough to go to India where he understood better and fully saw how fabrics are made. "We went to a silk farm where they have the live worms, and then show you how they dye the fabrics. It was an awesome experience and really educational. It was fantastic to have pushed myself to get that in the first place because it helped me get into New Zealand Fashion Week 2016" he says.
In 2017 Jerome also was accepted into Project Fashion Wellington, after being urged to by the founder. He says he was attracted by the calibre of mentors, such as the head designer of major New Zealand label, KowTow. He also ruffled some feathers by never showing the test clothes, because he was already working on the finished result. "I was the finale for our runway show at Te Papa, so I think they were a bit worried" he laughs.
What has kept him going with Not For You?
"Ever since I was a kid I had a sense of self-belief" Jerome explains "School made me lose some of that. I kept some of it though, and now I have a lot of self-belief. I have goal setting as a big part of my life. You need to have goals and to turn those into a plan. I am different to people I knew at school. I'm almost like a new person." Jerome admits he doesn't fit the stereotype of being a fashion designer. "My mum's always backed me - she knew I could do it. She really helps me out" he says
Fashion and Wellington life were a slow, growing process for Jerome, but he is happy with the path he has arrived at. "I used to always like to look good," Jerome says. "But it wasn't until I studied fashion that I learnt more about it and the designers. Wellington is bringing out awesome more talent right now." He thinks social media has helped to grow young designers profile, faster and to a wider audience too. "There's a movement that makes people more popular through things like Instagram. It's influencing New Zealand fashion and bringing attention to what they do. I'm also finding more males coming into fashion, with a different twist on things. That's great because I can see more people who are trying things like what I am trying, making cool menswear." he says. "I don't want to sound like I'm up myself, but I don't think there is anyone quite doing what I'm trying to do. I can't wait to show more people." Here's to making Not For You, for everyone!