Fashion designer Dominique Healy is the local rising star to watch, now

25 August 2023
By Amberley Colby

Rising fashion star Dominique Healy has achieved sartorial success in Australia, and now she’s brought her transeasonal designs and sustainable production back to Aotearoa for the next leg of her creative journey

In the heart of Mt Eden in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland, the creative hub of fashion label Dominique Healy is making itself at home. Having relocated to New Zealand in 2022 after several years in Melbourne, its founder found the perfect spot for her retail store and studio in the historic village. “I wasn’t planning to open a store — I was just looking for a studio space because I needed somewhere to design,” says Healy (pictured opposite). “I used to work in-store but hadn’t for the past few years because I’d been in the studio full-time, so it’s quite refreshing getting direct feedback from people again, because I haven’t had it for so long.” 

When FQ sits down with Healy in her new space enclosed within charming exposed-brick walls, she’s wearing one of her own merino ‘Vera’ tees with a pair of high-waisted jeans — a combination that embodies her brand’s intention to prioritise comfort. Cool, calm and collected on home turf, she has immediate plans to work on building her local customer base.

Established in Mebourne in 2017, her eponymous label has gained fans in both Australia and New Zealand for her quality transeasonal pieces and focus on conscious production, but the majority of her customers are still based across the Tasman, so although opening a bricks-and- mortar store in New Zealand wasn’t initially on the cards, the opportunity it has provided for direct interaction in this neck of the woods is proving positive.

Healy’s made-to-order pieces are crafted from predominantly deadstock materials and mostly made in-house, with a small portion of production outsourced to an ethically accredited factory in Melbourne. To her, sustainable production isn’t a trend, but something she thinks should be standard practice for the entire fashion industry. “I feel like it’s almost at a point now with a lot of brands where you get a bit tired of [hearing they’re] doing this and that. [Sustainable production] should just be the way it is.”

Fabric and fashion are lifelong passions for Healy. “I’ve been making clothes since I was a kid,” she says. “My auntie started teaching me when I was eight and I’d sew every weekend. I went to classes at Spotlight… I’ve just always loved making clothes.” While studying fashion design at Auckland University of Technology, she worked part-time at what’s now called The Fabric Store, and continued to work for them in a wholesale capacity after moving to Melbourne.

Developing a penchant for buying rolls of fabric soon prompted Healy to start designing her own pieces. “I couldn’t stop buying fabric — a lot of fabric,” she says. “I either needed to stop buying fabric or give [my label] a proper go, so I decided to give it a go because I didn’t want to stop!” Healy began dabbling, selling her designs at weekend markets. “A couple of my friends from The Fabric Store were doing the same thing at the same time, so we started booking pop-ups,” she says. “It was a good way to get in front of people because [in many ways] that was the hardest part.”

It wasn’t long before the trio made the decision to start working on their labels full-time and opened a store called Before March, in which they stocked their labels alongside that of other local and international designers. Although Healy left the business when she moved home, the store remains a loyal stockist, one of several throughout Australia and Aotearoa, and online.

Fusing luxurious textiles with timeless silhouettes, Healy seeks to achieve a sense of polished practicality with her pieces. She’s partial to unique prints and pops of vibrant colour, with red, purple and green making regular appearances. She doesn’t cite a specific muse, but often designs with her mother and sister in mind. “There are aspects of [my label] that I make for me, my mum and my sister,” she says. “It’s almost like I try to make different sections for each of us. You want to be presentable, but you also want to be comfortable.”

Two of her best-selling styles — the ‘Bella’ blouse and ‘Anna Frill’ blouse — are testament to that. Relaxed fits with oversized sleeves, it’s no wonder these fluid yet elegant pieces are top performers. For Healy, designing is less about the aesthetic and more about the feeling. “Comfort is generally a pretty big one for me, while still making things look nice,” she says. “I enjoy making dressy clothes, but I mainly just want to make things that I can wear every day.”

Another of Healy’s goals is to establish a clearer production split between her Auckland and Melbourne studios. At the time of writing, she was set to travel back to Melbourne to shoot her latest collection, something she hopes to try to do in Auckland as her operations become more streamlined.

Massive growth has never been a focus, but Healy would like to open another production space in New Zealand at some stage, and maintain her roots in Melbourne by opening a store there. But, she says, “My main goal is just to get things feeling good and to keep making.”

There’s little doubt that Healy will continue moving from strength to strength — and her ultimate ambition? To be able to balance her brand with a bach lifestyle. “I’d love to live close to a beach, whether in Auckland or a couple of hours away. I think I’d be pretty happy with that.”

This article originally appeared in Fashion Quarterly‘s Winter 2023 issue. 

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