The Garden of Perfect Happiness – (part 3/3)

In this part three of ‘The Garden of Perfect Happiness’ we introduce Laurie Foon, an inspirational eco-creative who ran the fashion label Starfish from 1998-2013. She is the great-granddaughter of Willian Yan Foon, an early Chinese immigrant to Petone in the 1890’s, who farmed his market vegetables in Alicetown, sold his produce from his shop on Jackson Street, and raised his family alongside his hardworking wife Mary.

You can see one of Laurie’s dresses on display at our place, the Petone Settlers Museum, alongside a portrait of her Great-grandfather and his veggies….

 Wearable Garden


Poster advertising Starfish Summer Collection 08/09, Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

This dress was designed by Laurie Foon for her eco-fashion label Starfish. It was part of the summer 2008/2009 collection titled “The Garden of Perfect Happiness”. The collection reflected Laurie’s Chinese heritage and tells stories of her great grandfather William Yan Foon, content amongst his vegetable garden—his place of “perfect happiness”.

William is remembered by his grandson Roger (Laurie’s father) as “a good man, an honest man, a hard-working man” who had boundless patience for his grandchildren, and who considered life to be “a gift”. This was communicated with the limited English William had, and through his body language.


Laurie’s sketchbook, Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Laurie’s label Starfish is no longer in operation, and the dress has become a part of our recent history, even as it captures her own family narrative. Raised in Wainuiomata, Laurie is an inspirational creative. Her entrepreneurship and love of the environment could be seen as inherited Foon family traits.


One of Laurie Foon’s busy workbook pages, Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

We’re thankful to the Foon whānau for sharing their stories of their hard-working kaumātua William Yan Foon and Mary, his ‘everything’. We hope you enjoy this series as much as we have enjoyed gathering all the parts which made it.


Signing off,


Arawhetu Berdinner

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