Craftswomen Dominate at Apprentice of the Year

Two apprentices from the Douglas workshop brought home accolades in the national Apprentice of the Year awards at last weekend’s OFPANZ Conference in Nelson.

Georgie Tier 1 Apprentice of the Year

Georgie Fry: Apprentice of the Year (Tier 1)

Taking out Industrial Textile Apprentice of the Year in the Tier 1 category was our very own Georgie Fry. Georgie created a messenger bag, putting in the late nights and putting in an incredible amount of thought and attention to detail into her design choices and finish. In Tier 1 level all entrants are required to make a bag from the same materials and pattern, so it’s all about workmanship and finishing style. 

Messenger bag by Georgie

Seb Devlin-Hall: Tier 1 new entrant

We would additionally like to acknowledge our other Tier 1 apprentice Seb, who also created a messenger bag and put in an amazing effort to create his bag and learn new skills in the craft.

Messenger bag by Seb - Tier 1

Alexi Faulkner: Highly Commended (Tier 2)

The only Highly Commended award in the Apprentice category went to Alexi Faulkner in Tier 2, who heads our Ziptrak® blind fabrication team. Alexi (now fully qualified) entered her Dungeons and Dragons themed “Adventurer’s Backpack”. 

In Tier 2, more longstanding apprentices get to play with creativity, making their own design. Alexi’s Adventurer’s Bag features gifted leather offcuts and mis-matched hardware from the opshop.


The overall Apprentice of the Year was awarded to apprentice Tessa Paaymans of another local workshop, Napier Auto Upholstery, so it was fabulous to collectively win all national Apprentice of the Year awards across our two local businesses. Clearly we have some great talent here in the Bay.

The annual Outdoor Fabric Products Association of New Zealand (OFPANZ) Awards for Excellence offer apprentices a chance to showcase their technical skills, design excellence and innovation on a national stage.

OFPANZ Executive Officer Amanda Newport said the quality of work was a challenge for the judges.

“The judges have a tough job of examining the smallest of details to select the winning pieces,” said Amanda. “The quality of entries from across the country was incredibly high.”


The 2022 OPFANZ Awards was the second time all Industrial Textile Apprentice awards have gone to female apprentices.

“This was the second year in a row that 100% of our Apprentice of the Year accolades have been awarded to females, and all of them from Hawke’s Bay” adds Amanda. “It is always fantastic to celebrate new apprentices joining the industry, and this year it’s special to be highlighting the creative skill of our women in trades, in what used to be a mostly male career path.” 


OFPANZ as an industry-owned organisation is a keen supporter of Industrial Textile Apprenticeships, helping to develop the MAST qualification and encouraging uptake across New Zealand.

“We are always delighted when businesses like Douglas Innovation and Napier Auto Upholstery continue to invest in the next generation. It’s a wonderful skillset that helps to keep our country’s high-quality craftsmanship and restore and repair culture alive.”

In addition to the apprentice awards Douglas received Awards for Excellence for our work. Douglas Innovation won the Commercial Shade Structures award for our shade installation at Nest Fest, and our sister company, Sunshade, was also the winner of two accolades, including for a commercial shade sail installation at Wairoa College. 

The Douglas team on Awards Night