New Zealand's national fashions in the field final, The Ned Prix de Fashion, turned into a virtual competition this season due to a lockdown in Auckland forcing the cancellation of the planned event.
The competition featured 15 finalists from around the country who had each won a qualifying competition at a raceday around New Zealand over the spring / summer and went on to submit images and an optional video of their outfit (or "entry").
Our panel of eight judges from New Zealand and Australia then had the unenviable task of narrowing the field down to five grand finalists - one of whom is Sara Allpress - a busy mother who spends her time juggling her three children with her own business when she's not entering fashions on the field competitions.
Ahead of the announcement as to who will take out the competition's Supreme Award, we had a chat with Sara to learn a little more about this busy and stylish kiwi - plus we got the inside info on her gorgeous entry.
You describe it as being "the best job out"... tell us a little more about your business.
"I own a small business called Accentuate Bikinis where I design and make rhinestone competition bikinis.
"I run it solely by myself which is such fun.
"I get to meet so many wonderful and supportive women who I have had the joy of dressing in the most spectacular bikinis.
"It's really the best job out!"
Was there anything unusual or unique about your outfit?
"My bag was probably the most challenging piece to source.
"I searched high and low to find the perfect shade of grapefruit pink, which I found, but it was on Poshmark and I just needed it so I did what any girl does and [went to the] "checkout".
"My rookie mistake was I really didn't account for the extra costs in shipping or the currency difference as I was just so excited to have found the perfect coloured bag.
"Let's just say that I will treasure the heck out of it."
What inspired you for your outfit?
"I was really inspired by the colour. I had begun seeing lime green and chartreuse show up in fashion, but not really fashion on the field (FOTF) yet - so I wanted to push the boundaries and wear a colour that typically isn't seen in a FOTF competition.
"From there, I really was inspired by cocktails on a sunny afternoon as I thought I looked like an apple martini in it, so I ran with it.
"I wanted the whole ensemble to be fresh and vibrant and so I chose grapefruit pink as my accent colour, and kept it nice, clean and simple, like an elegant martini."
The colours in your outfit were so striking - how long did it take for you to plan it all?
"My outfit took a while to plan. I purchased three different shoes so that I could find the right colour... I got there in the end.
"I had, for a while, been working on a design but with my small business taking off, life got too busy and I had to prioritise finding something that fitted within my own personal brief.
"I really wanted to wear a lime green dress of some sort and while my husband and I were on holiday in Auckland I stopped past Country Road and found my dress, in the colour and silhouette I wanted!
"It was meant to be.
"I used my prize from Te Rapa to purchase my dress which was a great bonus."
What or who is your style influenced by?
"I am mainly influenced by how a piece makes me feel - "does it bring me a level of joy?".
"I really like to find or design a piece that speaks to me.
"I'm often attracted to a garment that has a special design feature or surprise element.
"I like to feel confident in a garment, so one that accentuates my curves or plays on my favourite features is a bonus.
"In terms of the garment I wore for The Ned Prix de Fashion, I was immediately drawn to the colour and when I put it on I was like, "this sparks a lot of joy!" - as cliché as that sounds.
"My everyday style, however, is focused on comfort.
"Sitting for hours behind a sewing machine lends itself to athletic wear, so competing in FOTF events really gives me the chance to dress up and express myself through colour and texture."
What might people be surprised to know about you?
"Most people are surprised to learn that I design and make competition bikinis and themewear for bodybuilding shows.
"I hand apply 10,000,000 rhinestones a year and I really love the creative process behind it.
"What started as a hobby has turned into a full-time job. When I tell people my profession they are like, "wow that's a really interesting job!".
"I do this all while juggling three children."
What differences did you notice between entering a runway competition vs online?
"It was lovely to be able to experience the whole thing with my family.
"Typically I travel to attend the different race meetings, so it was a nice change to get ready at home and for my children to see me all glam.
"I really do like a runway walk, so being able to include a video also enabled me to show how my garment moved and how it made me feel.
"Being able to choose the best of the best photos was also ideal.
"I think both opportunities are great, but the way the virtual competition was run made it just like a runway event."
What would you say to someone who would consider entering such a competition for the first time?
"It is fun, addictive and a great way to express your personality through fashion and colour.
"I'd recommend doing a touch of research beforehand, investing in quality millinery and practice walking in your heels.
"Enjoy the process of putting together a cohesive look and on the day, just have fun, smile and enjoy yourself."
Sara and the four other Grand Finalists each remain in the running to be named 'Supreme Winner' of The Ned Prix de Fashion 2021 and take home the winner-takes-all $20,000 prize package from The Ned and Victoria Racing Club - plus the coveted title of being New Zealand racewear's national titleholder for the 2020/21 season.
Stay tuned for the announcement of the Supreme Winner of The Ned Prix de Fashion which will follow next week.
To see all the finalists, click here
To learn more about the judges and The Ned Prix de Fashion, click here
More Grand Finalist updates will be landing on this blog soon too!