Home » Fashion designer Rory William Docherty shares his journey to Australian Fashion Week

Fashion designer Rory William Docherty shares his journey to Australian Fashion Week

The Auckland-based designer carries on the momentum of his New Zealand Fashion Week runway debut in 2023 with a solo show in Sydney this week. Here he shares a visual diary of the journey to putting on a show, and what it takes to make an impact.

Rory William

Elsewhere, it’s the appeal of an iridescent silver cocktail dress, worn with mannish lace-up brogues. Then there’s the slip dress worn by New Zealand model Charlotte Moffat fluttering past, with fabric embellishments mimicking the painterly strokes seen on his signature artist smocks apparent on another great look.

Photo / Derek Henderson

Tidy waistcoats, voluminous trousers, a utilitarian jacket with deep patch pockets, and those crisp kilt skirts — all 35 resort 2025 looks sent down the runway on the first day of Australian Fashion Week, Rory’s first, display the type of thoughtful confidence the designer has quietly been finessing since he launched the brand in 2017. He’s a designer who knows how to create separates that easily intermingle and work for all seasons and reasons.

New Zealand models and couple Michael Whittaker and Meike van Roij backstage at Rory William Docherty’s Australian Fashion Week show. Photo / Derek Henderson
New Zealand models and couple Michael Whittaker and Meike van Roij backstage at Rory William Docherty’s Australian Fashion Week show. Photo / Derek Henderson

Clothes that look good on a hangar, clothes that are easy to merch, clothes that look fantastic on a body, pieces that have moments of respite, and others, like the metallic tulip skirt shown this week, that dare to be ignored.

Combining all this with a soundtrack that included the gloriously euphoric Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode and I Love You by the Fontaines D.C., and a heartfelt cameo from friends, muses and model couple Michael Whittaker and Meike van Roij, Rory’s confident debut was a welcome reminder that given the opportunity to shine, New Zealanders know how to deliver compelling, interesting and highly wearable spring/summer collections for an Australian customer too.

Here, Rory shares some of the highlights of putting together a highly personal runway show.

Photo / Rory William Docherty
Photo / Rory William Docherty

Castings, fittings, beauty tests and more

We transformed our Airbnb in Surry Hills into a working space for the week. This is where it all came to life. We held model fittings and our hair and makeup tests, and added all of the final touches to the collection.

The space had high ceilings and an abundance of natural light, which made for the perfect space for us.

The beauty looks were co-created by Paloma Garcia for Kevin Murphy and Linda Jeffereys for LiqLips. I worked closely with our exclusive beauty partners to create beauty looks that were an extension of the collection and played to the models’ natural features.

Photo / Rory William Docherty
Photo / Rory William Docherty

Exploring our neighbourhood

Being in the heart of Surry Hills, we were able to live like locals and go for morning walks around the area. We got into a good routine by starting the day with some exercise and really taking in the surroundings. It was important for us to keep some routine and stay active during the week. Having breaks throughout the day for fresh air and coffee was so nice.

After long days in the “office”, we enjoyed a pet-nat from our new favourite spot, Jane, a local wine bar that served exquisite food and wines. We even tried an Aussie delicacy of green ants.

Final touches: Last-minute finessing

Putting the final touches to some runway looks at the workroom and making sure everything was ready to go.

Photo / Gisella Zambarelli
Photo / Gisella Zambarelli

We really wanted to hero the models’ individuality in their features so we kept the hair and makeup natural. Some models had curly hair, some long and straight, so we altered each look to ensure these features were highlighted and would shine through on the runway. The makeup looks were unique too — we had touches of metallic liner to tie into some of the metallic foil looks, which was fun.

It’s the Saturday before the show on Monday afternoon, so the team head to Carriageworks for our tech rehearsal. It was pretty surreal to see everything come together. To view the space, hear the music over and visualise the show coming together was very exciting.

Photo / Wade Whitingon
Photo / Wade Whitingon

Final moments backstage. Everything in position and ready for runway.

Photo / Nina Franova
Photo / Nina Franova

This collection is a continuation of my previous designs. We have repurposed old offcuts from previous designs and fabrications, repurposed and given new life to these reimagined designs. Our “crushes” are a big focus in this resort collection — it is sculptural, drawing on inspiration from my surroundings, and it’s been incredible to see them come to life through this work. Showcasing it at Australian Fashion Week is an added bonus.

This collection is particularly special and has been years in the making. To see it come to life and be celebrated has brought a huge wave of emotions.

Photo / Kristen Buccholtz
Photo / Kristen Buccholtz

I am genuinely honoured and really touched that my dearest friends Michael Whittaker and his brilliant fiancée Meike came over to to Australia show their love and support me. To have them here, first and foremost as friends, and to embody the brand by walking in the show is something I couldn’t be more grateful for.

Dan Ahwa is Viva’s fashion and creative director and a senior premium lifestyle journalist for the New Zealand Herald, specialising in fashion, luxury, arts and culture. He is also an award-winning stylist with over 17 years of experience, and is a co-author and co-curator of The New Zealand Fashion Museum’s Moana Currents: Dressing Aotearoa Now.

More fashion

Profiles, insights, and more from the fashion world.

Unlock this article and all our Viva Premium content by subscribing to