Samuel Ralph: Socks, Shirts and the Spruce Goose

It was an absolute pleasure to meet up with menswear designer Samuel Ralph. It’s refreshing to talk to someone who is so passionate about what they do, yet Sam is very down to earth and modest. After all, he grew up working on dairy farms in Southland where fashion is not the main priority.

Sam is one of only three Otago Polytechnic students to make the finals of the iD International Emerging Designer Awards, to be judged on 13 March and presented to the public the following day. He is very excited about the opportunity to also show at the main railway station event on 15 and 16 March alongside Dunedin’s signature designers such as NOM*d. In the third year of his Bachelor of Design (Fashion), Sam had an internship with NOM*d which he found to be a great hands-on experience. We wondered how his preparations for the big day were going, especially as he is working five days a week as a hair colourist – yet another of his skills. He is currently making sure his clothes are in top-notch condition and wondering how best to present himself and his collection to the judges.

His collection, ‘The Way Of’, was designed to push the limits of menswear in both styling (e.g. skirts rather than trousers), colour (vibrant reds) and materials (polyester rather than natural fibres). He is especially influenced by Asian culture more so than even he realised: when his collection was photographed in Shanghai (at the time of showing at Fashion Week) everyone was struck by how his silhouettes imitated the shapes of Chinese lanterns and pagodas. His other main influence evolved after watching ‘The Aviator’, a film about the life of Howard Hughes and his invention – the ‘Hercules’ plane commonly known as the ‘Spruce Goose’. Sam produced his own digital prints of planes based on a ‘Spruce Goose’ model he bought on eBay. This will provide a good opportunity to show the judges another of his technical skills while indulging in an activity he really enjoys.

We couldn’t help noticing, especially after writing our recent post ‘Collared’, that a promotional image for his collection featured a quadruple collar. Again, this wasn’t intentional but the collar nicely balanced out other aspects of the outfit and he enjoyed the challenge of making something complex.

Now back to the socks and shirts. Sam has worked for Barkers Menswear for five years and is very impressed by the quality and design of the clothing. While working in the Auckland head office, he was given the opportunity to design his own socks and shirts. One of them is even called the ‘Ralph’ shirt. His anchor socks are not classical but “crazy”. Most of his designs have already sold out.

Sam with some of his sock designs

Sam with some of his sock designs

Sam with his 'Ralph' shirt. Sam wears top and pants designed and made by himself, and a NOM*d jacket.

Sam with his ‘Ralph’ shirt. Sam wears top and pants designed and made by himself, and a NOM*d jacket.

Girls can wear Barkers socks too! Sam's anchor socks worn with Melissa jelly shoes from Belle Bird.

Girls can wear Barkers socks too! Sam’s anchor socks worn with Melissa jelly shoes from Belle Bird.

Sam is passionate about New Zealand and wants to develop his future clothing line here, not overseas. He sees some great street style in places such as Dunedin and feels that New Zealand is small enough for him to influence the way men perceive fashion.

Thanks to Barkers, Dunedin (Meridian Centre, George Street) for allowing us to take the photos. Thanks so much Sam. We so appreciate that you took the time to tell us your story despite your very busy schedule. We wish you tons of luck for iD!

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