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Determined not to be defeated by New Zealand’s isolation — and before she had even launched her brand — emerging Auckland-based designer Courtney Pellow flew to New York earlier this year to find a showroom. Zannick Studio took her on and she didn’t have to wait long to get noticed.

In September, Gigi Hadid attracted international media attention when she stepped out at Milan Fashion Week in a pair of the designer’s eye-catching patchwork Up-Cycled Sock Pants.

Handmade from faulty wool socks discarded by a New Zealand manufacturer and retailing on Pellow’s web store for 1,196 New Zealand dollars or $821 at current exchange, the pants were among several pieces from the designer’s debut collection that were loaned to Hadid’s stylist.

A day later, Hadid was photographed again in another Courtney Pellow style: the White Camo Cropped Jean, a relaxed-fit, mid-rise jean in a camouflage print with contrast denim waistband and patch pockets.

While upcycling accounts for just 20 percent of Pellow’s production, sustainability is front of mind for the Auckland University of Technology graduate, who is using organic cotton in her T-shirts.

Other repurposed products include the Up-Cycled Sock Jumper and a range of Bush Shirts crafted from vintage wool blankets that Pellow sources from thrift shops.

“Each of those garments is like 95 percent of the blanket, there is kind of nothing left,” said Pellow, who launched her brand at New Zealand Fashion Week in late August. “And that [the wool blankets] is a very New Zealand story. They’re all retro, they have all of the different [manufacturer] patches on them from the different mills in New Zealand. They’re all very unique and beautiful”.

Key sustainability achievement of 2018: There are so many options and so many ways for a brand to be sustainable these days, but coming from a point of view of actually upcycling and using pre-existing things, I think that that’s really exciting. Obviously having Gigi Hadid wear those pants, that’s a pretty epic milestone.

Sustainability target for 2019 and why: In terms of upcycling, my goal for next year is just to find more interesting and unique ways to bring this message through every piece that I design or put out there. Moving forward, I’m looking at more interesting ways to have more of a sustainable practice. I’m looking at repurposing garments, not in terms of reconstruction, but in terms of using fabrics and pieces of trims, in more inventive ways.

Third-party plaudits: Pellow uses GOTS-certified cotton knits for T-shirts and hopes to use GOTS-certified denim in her next runs.

Biggest challenge: Overconsumption. Obviously brands are putting all these implementations in place or whatever, it costs more and I guess just changing consumer culture to appreciate and desire that and accept that. Spend more, buy less.

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