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Meet Willem from Willem 


Name, pronouns and star sign? 

Willem, they/them, Leo.


Where did you grow up, and where do you live now? 

I was born and raised in Aotearoa and moved to Naarm, Australia when I was seventeen. I’m currently back in New Zealand, residing in my hometown of Ōtautahi.


How has your upbringing shaped your creative practice?

From a young age, my family accepted me and allowed me to express myself freely and creatively. I remember my sister would dress me up for her own amusement and I realised the power of dressing up as a way to enter a world of my own fantasy. From that moment, there was no stopping me. 

I truly believed I would grow up to be a fairy princess, and every photograph of me from that time can prove it. I just wish someone told me a Velcro sandal does not pair nicely with a blue fishnet tights!

Besides pulling looks from my dress-up box and pairing them with my mother’s heels, dance served to be a really transformative part of my life. Since the age of five, I have trained in many forms of dance. I will always remember the materials of the clothes I trained in, they were like a second skin which served to highlight the movement of my body. I realised as I began to move away from dance, that I had captured this early memory, this passionate experience and translated it directly to my fashion practice. The clothing I make now equally serves to augment the body, emphasising movement and shape for whoever is to wear it.



What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

The people I surround myself with. Going for long walks in nature. Words of self-affirmation, telling myself I feel…[something] instead of I am… [something]. Your body will have a stronger reaction.


What turns you off?

Caring too much about what other people think.


What does community mean to you?

Community is about uplifting one another and collectively amplifying each other’s voice. It's about being in a space where you feel like you’re seen and heard. To be honest, Blood Orange – Charcoal baby lyrics sums it up perfectly:

“I think of family as community

I think of the spaces where you don't have to shrink yourself

Where you don't have to pretend or to perform

You can fully show up and be vulnerable

And in silence, completely empty and

That's completely enough

To show up, as you are, without judgment, without ridicule

Without fear or violence, or policing, or containment

And you can be there and you're filled all the way up.”


If your label/art was a…


… song? 

Hair by Lady Gaga is constant reminder to rise above the bullshit.

I have a clear memory of this song as a kid, playing it through my headphones, lip syncing to it in the back of my parents’ car, while driving through the mountain side. A true coming of age theme song.


… meal?

A big bowl of Laksa. Pretty to look at, full of surprises, melts in your mouth as well as giving some bite, then that final KICK of spice in the back of your throat, leaving you wanting more. 


… smell?

Leather or Turkish Rose. Maybe there's a Willem Worldwide scent on the horizon?!

… designer piece? 

Philip Treacy for Paco Rabanne Spring 2012.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? 

"Be true to yourself". This is something I constantly tell myself. It’s easy to want to do everything and feel like you’re pulling yourself in too many directions; It’s okay to dream, but realise what you’re good at and focus on that.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever given? 

I think I need to use my ‘phone a friend’ lifeline for this question, haha. 

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