Stepping Out the BLOCK w/ Dane Dagger

We have been fans of Dane’s work after seeing some of his designs live during a showcase in Honolulu, Hawai’i. His work truly spoke daring, fun and style-unlike most of what we witnessed in this showcase. Dane was pushing out something totally outside of the scope of what most would expect “Pacific Island Fashion” to look like and we absolutely love that. So with this, we asked Dane to be our inaugural designer highlight as we wanted to learn more about the artist behind these designs and what inspires his work. Dane was so gracious to say, yes!

Q. Can we have your given name and background/ ancestry? Where you were born and raised?

A.  My name is Dane Sydney Smith. I am the designer of the label, Dane Dagger. My mother was born in Mangaia, Cook Islands and my father is Kiwi-born.

Q. What were your first memories of fashion?  When was it that you knew you wanted to design clothes?

A. When I was at Wellington High School I was up styling my own t-shirts by sewing on pockets and buttons here and there but the thought of actually pursuing a fashion career didn’t occur until I was about 22 living in Melbourne, Australia. I initially wanted to study fashion in Melbourne but after being persuaded by my father to come home I did. In 2010, I enrolled in the NZ Institute of Fashion Technology and started my Certificate of Garment Construction. This lead to a 3-year apprenticeship at Stephanie Croft Ltd who mentored me into the designer I am today.

Q.  What has your journey as a designer been like?  What have you learned so far through your journey as a designer?

A. Participating in my first fashion show at NZ Eco Fashion Week in 2013 which just started off as a bit of fun gave me a sense of direction & curiosity about the fashion industry and what Dane Dagger could bring to the runway. I came back 2014-15 to NZ Eco Fashion Week to make my mark in Eco Fashion. In 2016 & 2018 I participated in the emerging category at Pacific Fusion Fashion Show in Auckland where the opportunity to network with other Pasifika designers & models has been very rewarding.

What I’ve learned in this industry is that not everyone is going to like you or your designs and that’s OK. An opinion is just somebody else’s opinion and that’s fine too. Out of all the bad, there is always good. But at the end of the day determination & passion is what gets you to your next runway show.

Q.  Were there and/ or are there any designers that inspire you?

A. I’ve always closely watched kiwi designers specifically because they inspire me. Fou, Dmonic Intent, WORLD, Tawhiao, Tasha Lee, Varu, Zambesi, Nom D. However, I’ve been obsessed with Christian Siriano’s work for like, forever and Zuhal from Green Embassy in Perth is another favorite. And I am a huge fan of Cecilie Bahnsen.

Q. Who are your top three favorite designers and why?

A. *Fou – Because they think outside of the box when it comes to design yet with all the touches of Polynesia which I love… It was an honor to bump into the Fou team backstage at Pacific Fusion Fashion Show last year.

*Tawhiao – I’m in Love with Shona’ s blend of harakeke & bold statement pieces. Her designs are completely on another level but most of all her headpieces are ridiculously insane and to die for.

*Green Embassy- Zuhal, I met at NZ Eco Fashion Week who I also like to call my fashion godmother or the Queen of Eco-fashion, is Australia’s 1st internationally recognized fashion label focusing on sustainable, handmade haute couture on certified organic textiles.

Image by: Junior Laulala (Junior Shoots Photography)
Model: Tahirih Latu


Q.  What are some things you’d like to see change in the mainstream fashion scenes and even within the Pacific?

A. I think as fashion designers we all have a responsibility to be as ethical & sustainable as possible. The effects the fashion industry has on our planet I find deeply disturbing which is what lead me onto the design path that I’m on today.

Also, the huge lack of recognition and opportunities for ethnic models in NZ and overseas in mainstream fashion is appalling, Its all about variety I say but we will get there.

Q. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

A. My own custom made fashion house (appointments only) and still slamming runways!!!

Q.  Are you working on anything at this moment? If so, what are your current inspirations?  If not, do you have an idea of where you are going as far as ideas? 

A. Currently working on an eco capsule collection for a particular fashion design competition in a few months here in NZ. My concept for this collection is the 70s, Studio 54 vibes with Grace Jones as the ultimate muse for every look with her bold, forward & over the top statements. I’m going extra (as in detail) with every single piece. I’m also excited that I’ll be creating a line of clutches all handmade from denim, faux fur, & organic fused cotton which will be showcased later in the year at Pacific Fusion Fashion Show.

Q.  Top three songs on your playlist?

A.  *Yaeji – Make It Rain
*Jessica Dime – Hustle
*Apple Watts – Fade

Q.  Do you have any advice for aspiring designers?

A. Believe in yourself and in what you do, be bold, confident and never hold back. Once you figure out what makes your designs unique and what you can create differently each year compared to other designers that’s what makes it fashion.

Q. Where is your Dream fashion venue and/ or fashion week?

A. New York & Melbourne Fashion Week***