• Nicholas Huxley
    Nicholas Huxley
  • Nicholas Huxley
    Nicholas Huxley
  • Nicholas Huxley
    Nicholas Huxley

As a fashion academic, Nicholas Huxley trained the likes of Dion Lee, Nicky Zimmermann, Bianca Spender, Akira Isogawa, Christopher Esber and more. Here, he reveals the next chapter of his journey. 

My adventures as head of the Fashion Design Studio at TAFE NSW began in 1974 when I undertook a three-year course at the then Dress Design Studio (DDS). We students of those days were very blessed to be at a fashion school in the times of disco fever - amazing music and fabulous clothes. It was an exhilarating time.

My design and illustration abilities saw me being asked by the head of the school Ross Stay to return as a teacher. I started teaching at East Sydney Technical College in early 1978.

My teaching hours progressed where the DDS became my main priority. I was appointed to a full time position in 1984 and became the head of school in 1990. I always knew how talented the students were, but the fashion industry wasn’t really aware of this melting pot of visionaries - talent galore in so many varied areas.

In the early days, Ross Stay kept it all very ‘in-house’, but with my promotion it was time for Australia and, eventually, the world to know about these wonderfully gifted students. And so began my intentions of putting the relabeled Fashion Design Studio (FDS) on the international map.

I was very lucky to be invited to Delhi to confer with six other international fashion schools about creating the International Foundation of Fashion and Technology Institutes (IFFTI) in the mid 1990s. This was the start of my spreading the word to the world of fashion education.

IFFTI’s annual conferences saw me travel to London, Brazil, Hong Kong, Canada, Los Angeles, Taipei, Shanghai,Beijing, Tokyo, Paris, Florence, Delhi, Jaipur and many other destinations. I had become a semi-regular on TV via Mornings with Kerri-Anne, and TAFE was thrilled about all that free publicity.

I made sure that FDS was everywhere - runway shows (Westfield parades every Saturday all over Sydney), exhibitions, design competitions and me turning up at ‘the opening of a fridge’ to promote the talent.

With all this success, I gained major support from the fabulous Marie Persson, who was head of TAFE in those days. Marie got me and my passion, and signed those travel submissions every year saying: ”as long as you keep getting the wonderful PR, I’ll keep signing your submissions”.

In the early days, the conference would have an international runway show displaying the best of each schools’ student work. FDS became recognised as one of the top 10 to 20 fashion institutes in the world. It was an inspiring time.

Then, in late 2015, I got poached to travel to Miami to set up the Miami Fashion Institute at Miami Dade College. MDC’s president Eduardo Padron was travelling the world looking for someone who could make a difference. He didn’t want anyone from the USA, and was looking for someone who had a different way of thinking.

I was offered a nine-month contract, which was then extended to a year. I was owed one-and-a-half years long service leave and so I took the year off TAFE and moved to Miami for the gig.

My time there was phenomenal - I was treated with utmost respect and I was cherished, and I created a fabulous Miami Fashion Institute.

In the same year of 2015, I was invited to be an international guest at Fiji Fashion Week. It was a fascinating experience. I was born and brought up in New Guinea and being back in Fiji felt like home.

Fiji Fashion Week’s managing director and owner Ellen Whippy-Knight invited me back to Suva in January 2016 to present some illustration and design classes (as there is no design school in Fiji). Some were interested in showing at Fiji Fashion Week and with that I commenced my love affair with Fiji and it’s people.

In April of 2017, I came back to a different TAFE. My one year away had seen so many changes. Even some of the staff were cool and indifferent to me, and with all that I knew I didn’t want to be there anymore. I was on the old superannuation scheme and so I didn’t have to be there.

I walked out the gates of TAFE’s Ultimo campus on February 8, 2018 after nearly 40 years. I had had a blast - an exciting, memorable, brilliant time - but my experience in Miami opened my eyes to a world of further possibilities. I said goodbye and I’ve never looked back.

In June of 2018 I travelled to Israel, Italy, Spain, France, England and Scotland for three months - I was a free spirit. Then, in October, 2018 I was handed an opportunity to work with the Massai people in Kenya and Tanzania. The Massai Initiative was looking at globalising a more commercially viable product and I was asked to use my experience to assist them.

I was there in November, settled in Nairobi and having an interesting, immeasurable experience. I worked with artisans on a clothing and jewellery collection. I worked with beaders and embroiderers, with pattern makers and machinists and experienced the creativity of these delightful, gentle people.

Since then, I now travel to Fiji a couple of times a year to mentor and work with designers in preparation for their FFW shows. It’s always a fascinating yet frustrating time - the lack of good quality fabrics and a difficulty finding good machinists, and a shortage of dollars makes it an epic undertaking. But this seems to be a global fashion industry problem.

I have always loved a challenge and have never backed down. Seeing the Fijian designers listening to me and achieving their goals is always a most gratifying time.

I have taught and done presentations all over the world. I have received nine Australian Fashion Laureate nominations (a record number and never a win), an Australian Fashion Walk of Style plaque at the Intersection in Paddington, an Australian Film Industries (AFI) nomination for Best Costume Design for a Motion Picture (Sons of Steel, 1988), the Designers Guild of Australia Hall of Fame Award, two Fashion Industries of Australia awards and a nomination for the Life Achievement award from the International Fashion Group.

I am very proud to have taught and mentored some of the mainstays of the Australian fashion industry. This includes Akira Isogawa, Dion Lee, Nicky Zimmermann, Alex Perry, Romance was Born’s Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales, Bianca Spender, Christopher Esber, Genevieve Smart (Ginger & Smart), Gary Bigeni, Karla Spetic to name a few, and the new breed like Yousef Akbar.

It’s been an exciting ride, and this journey of my life continues to fascinate, exhilarate and amaze me. My motto is: ‘Life is what you make it, and it’s all about attitude!’

I’ve definitely done it my way!

*edited for brevity

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