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CMT - Cutting, Making, Trimming

Christine Leong

On early beginnings in fashion…

Being born as an only daughter in a traditional family in Malaysia, it’s important to develop a skill from an early age. When I was 15 years’ old, my mum sent me for two years of sewing training. Every single day after school, I learnt how to sew, and I loved the entire process: thinking, moving, having my brain occupied. From working with fabrics with my hands to thinking about how to improve details, leading a CMT team in making a designer’s range is exactly what I enjoy.  I even love the fact I can listen to music as I work! 

On immigrating to New Zealand…

For about a decade I lived in Singapore before being transferred by my employer to New Zealand in the 1980s. After a few years as a production manager in the food industry, I realised it was time to do my own thing, so I revisited my skillset and found an opportunity at Charlie Johnston’s CMT Stuff. After three months working for Charlie, I started running production. 

On being a New Zealand maker….

The market has changed dramatically over the past 30 years. When I joined the ‘rag trade’ many garments were made in New Zealand. Now, for many reasons, often things are made offshore.  But while sometimes the cost of a garment made offshore may be less, you don’t know the circumstances of the working environment for those machinists, and can’t be assured of quality production. I always love hearing how people enjoy the high quality of New Zealand made garments.

On being part of the New Zealand fashion community…

I’m thankful for the designers and brands that I work for – many for more than 20 years! Long-term relationships are precious; and what these people do is great. They are local designers. They produce locally – they care about the craft; about working together with other Kiwis on making quality items. Moochi, Caterpillar – my customers range from womenswear to children’s clothing. 

On advice to someone starting out in the fashion industry…

Keep going. There are 24 hours in every day but life is short so just keep pushing ahead every day. Just keep going and you’ll find out what you love doing – once you do, it won’t feel like ‘work.’

On being grateful….

New Zealand offers many opportunities to people. You have the opportunity to manage yourself – to manage your time; your work; your family. As you manage yourself and figure things out for yourself, then you can aim for balance. I'm grateful for that opportunity.

On what makes New Zealand a great place to live…

When I arrived in New Zealand, I was taken by the country’s climate (so much cooler than Singapore!), the security and the environment. People are friendly and everything feels safe – these qualities have all remained dear to me as Charlie and I married and raised our son Ryan who is now approaching 20 years’ old and heading to uni. 

On supporting local charities through Great Full…

Helping each other. Being there for one another. Isn’t that what life is about? It is for me – I like helping other people.

With her own CMT business, each Great Full collection is sewn by Christine’s team of machinists at CMT Stuff.