We chat to... Andre Johnston!

By AlisonManey, Thu, 2018-04-26 18:09

This feature appeared in Cross Stitch Crazy issue 228, the May 2017 issue, and was written by Rachel Beckwith.

Meet the New Zealand designer who won a top fashion award for her unusual cross stitch evening dress…

 

A few  of us may have tried stitching the odd motif onto a piece of clothing, but talented designer Andre Johnston has taken it one step further! Living in rural New Zealand, Andre was raised in a creative family with her mum (designer Viv Tamblyn) inspiring her to pick up a needle and thread from a young age. In 2016, Andre’s lifelong love of sewing, embroidery and fashion came together when she won the Overall Award of Excellence at the Hokonui Fashion Design Awards for her stunning cross stitch evening gown. When Crazy saw her jaw-dropping design online, we just had to find out all about it…

 

Where does your love of cross stitch come from?

From as far back as I can remember, I have always been very creative. As a young girl, I had a love for craft projects, and used to design clothes for my Barbie dolls! When I was about 10 years old my auntie – who sadly passed away from cancer last year – taught me how to do cross stitch and embroidery. She was a very clever lady, and while going through cancer treatment she created some beautiful cross stitch pieces. 

 

How did you come up with the idea for your dress?

I had wanted to use cross stitch in one of my garments for a couple of years, after seeing a pair of embroidered hot pants in Vogue magazine! They were amazing, and the idea has always stuck with me. Cross stitch and embroidery is so on trend at the moment and making such a come back, that I thought it was the perfect time to use my idea on a gown.

 

What fabric did you use to make it?

I originally wanted to make the dress out of a fine stretch mesh, but after sampling some stitches I knew I had to go to my plan B as it would have taken me more than a year to complete. I only had a time frame of three months to finish the garment, so the pressure was on! I changed to a heavily structured mesh fabric, which was perfect to cross stitch on because it kept its shape once embroidered.

Did you have any design challenges along the way?

I was faced with a couple of challenges, but nothing too major. I had trouble getting the placement right for each of the flowers before I started, so that it covered the body in all the right places! I had to draw paper patterns of the flowers to scale first, which I placed on my dress before stitching. At one point, I did have to unpick about three nights’ worth of stitching. I had been trying to stitch a different flower that I liked, but it looked terrible on the mesh and you couldn’t even tell it was a flower! 

 

 

How long did it take you?

The dress took me just over 240 hours of cross stitching to complete – and that’s not including the time it took me to design and find fabrics, sample stitches, make patterns, and fit the actual dress!

 

How much thread did you use?

I used DMC standard embroidery threads, and used some of the gold metallic thread to highlight small parts of the flowers. I ended up having to use the full six strands, so let’s just say I used a lot of thread!

 

Can you tell us more about winning the award?

I’ve been entering the Hokonui Fashion Awards since 1998. It’s always such a huge feeling of success and pride to see your own designs being modelled on the catwalk, but this year winning the Nightlife section and then taking the Bonz Overall Award of Excellence was a huge honour! I was very overwhelmed. The prize has always been my ultimate dream goal, so for it to come true this year was such an amazing feeling. I was so pleased that the judges loved my dress as much as I do, and saw the love and passion that went into it. I worked extremely hard for it – a balancing act with looking after my two kids, working part-time and juggling everyday life! 

 

And your mum won an award, too?

Yes, this year was extremely exciting and a first with a mother and daughter winning the major awards! My mum has a real love for wool, which she uses in lots of her designs. We’ve always bounced ideas off each other and share a real passion for all aspects of fashion and design. She used to make clothes for me and my brother as kids, and she made all my ball gowns at high school! She did extremely well this year, we are all so proud. 

 

What most inspires you when designing clothing? 

A lot of things, sometimes a fabric I love, or trends that are coming into fashion. I always love to push my construction skills if designing something out of the box. 

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