Arts & Culture People

Age Is No Issue: Royal New Zealand Ballet’s William Fitzgerald

Photo: Ross Brown
Ashna Sholehpak
Written by Ashna Sholehpak

express’ Ash sits down with William to discover the driving force behind his creative wisdom.


23-year-old William Fitzgerald has been dancing since he was eight and joined the Royal New Zealand Ballet in 2014. He’s been in some of the company’s most notable roles including Martin Vedel’s staging of Coppélia, Mattress Suite by Larry Keigwin and Massimo Moricone’s A Christmas Carol, to name a few.

The life of a ballet dancer is one of gruelling commitment and immense physical pain. Pain that William knows too well after taking time out earlier this year to recover from surgery.

William explains how this time off gave him the opportunity to realise his creative potential in the realm of fashion design.

His strong sense of social and moral responsibility led him to promise to himself not to purchase any clothes this year but rather, to make all of his own clothes. It was through his unamusing self-taught genius that he found himself designing the costumes for choreographer Loughlin Prior’s new ballet piece. Titled “They/them” it opens at Grand Rapids ballet Michigan, early next year.

William believes clothing construction is merely problem solving and offers a unique perspective into what fashion should be.

When did your interest in fashion design begin?

I have always had a strong aversion to fast fashion and the way it’s shaping the economy and society. I think it’s disgusting how much waste it creates and I’ve always have lot respect for designers who create when they feel the need to and aren’t a slave to consumerism. That’s why this year I put down the mandate that I would not buy anything for myself and I would have to make everything I wear.

As a child I had an aversion to the fact that I couldn’t wear ‘what she’s wearing’ and would always push the envelope without even realising it. That’s definitely where it began, but I had time to commit to it in the wake of my recovery. It was a challenge to myself, a skill to advance, and something to pass the time.”

What does your clothing say about you?

My style constantly changes with my sense of identity. I love being able to say I made everything I’m wearing. Clothing should not be about gender but about how you feel in it. Most importantly my clothing makes me confident. I don’t believe in comfort though! I think it was Christian Louboutin who famously said I would hate for someone to look at my shoes and say oh that looks so comfortable!”

Where did you learn to make clothes?

I took basic sewing at high school which was mandatory but otherwise I have no formal training. For me I’m practical in the sense that I like problem solving and for me making clothing is just problem solving. As humans we wear clothing everyday, if you take a moment to just think how is a shirt made it’s really easy to break down and I just loved the problem solving of if it. I guess some people have cross words or Sudoku and I have pattern making.

For me I’m practical in the sense that I like problem solving and for me making clothing is just problem solving. As humans we wear clothing everyday, if you take a moment to just think how is a shirt made it’s really easy to break down and I just loved the problem solving of if it. I guess some people have cross words or Sudoku and I have pattern making.

 You’re currently designing the costumes for a piece by Grand Rapids ballet how did that come about?

“I’m close friends with the choreographer Loughlan Prior who I’ve worked with closely in the past. One day he just said to me oh my god I love that top where did you get it. When he found I made it he wanted me to make the costumes for his ballet as he loved what I wore and my style and wanted me to replicate it for his show with a few guidelines. So I took that and ran with it and ended up with 8 costumes. It’s also a show I feel passionate about as it’s about gender fluidity and gender roles specifically in the ballet world and how prescribed they are, like how if you’re male you do this and if you’re female you do this. It’s an in depth look into those constructs something which my clothing does for me.”

 Your clothing obviously gives you an immense amount of satisfaction in a number of ways. Does this sense of satisfaction relate to the feeling you get when you perform?

“No. absolutely not. Dance is such a personal thing. A dancer who dances for someone else is not a real dancer – you must dance for yourself. We don’t get paid enough, we don’t put our body through heartache and pain and there’s so much going against you. Our career is short and you can’t do that for yourself or you will never feel fulfilled.”

“The satisfaction of dancing is very much for myself as opposed to the instant gratification of making clothing where there is a tangible finished product there. Aside from that it enables me draw from my inspirations. One of my favourite pieces is a mullet top I designed recently I really wanted and couldn’t find anywhere so I just decided to make it for myself!”

 

About the author

Ashna Sholehpak

Ashna Sholehpak

Ash is a Persian prince who has a passion for investigative journalism and human interest stories. He can be found bouncing around the globe as an international flight attendant but when he’s on the ground, he can be found soaking up the best food, fashion and nightlife Auckland has to offer.

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