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Dame Cath Tizard, Olivia Hall and Ata Te Kanawa.When Ata Te Kanawa started talking about ‘indigenous fashion’ five years ago she was met with a lot of blank stares and a lukewarm response. But Ata’s ambition was not deterred by people who didn’t ‘get it’. With creative collaborator Rex Turnbull, the pair founded The Indigenous Māori Fashion Apparel Board (IMFAB) a non-profit organization with the view to advancing the quality status of Māori fashion design and to raise its artistic and professional standards.

Ata says, “we saw the potential of Māori fashion beyond the cliché of what people expected to see and the opportunity to claim a space initially in New Zealand fashion and ultimately on the world stage.”

Fast forward five years and the creation of Miromoda and the annual fashion design awards have provided the platform for many Māori designers to launch their careers. The opportunity for the finalists to show at New Zealand Fashion Week has put Māori fashion design firmly on the map attracting both local and international attention.

Ata credits Dame Pieter Stewart, NZ Fashion Week founder, avid Miromoda supporter and competition head judge with initiating a new indigenous awareness and genre in fashion.

“Dame Stewart was motivated in 2008 to include Miromoda with the intent of showing international media and judges something they would not see at any other international Fashion Week around the world. We’re excited that this will be the first year Miromoda will be billed as a Big Ticket Show at NZ Fashion Week – it’s indicative of how we have grown as a brand and the quality of designers coming through.”

Te Puni Kōkiri project investment manager Paula Collins says Miromoda is an example of a great idea driven by the passion and determination of the people who want to see it succeed. “Along with our Māori Business Facilitation Service advisors, Ata and Rex have worked collaboratively with others to build Miromoda into an inspiring organisation that is opening doors for Māori designers. Te Puni Kōkiri is proud to work alongside them to realise their vision.”

Working collaboratively to achieve the goals of Miromoda, Ata says, has been vital to the growth of the brand. “Wine label Tohu have pledged an allegiance with Miromoda based on the premise of being leaders in wine and fashion. There’s also potential for us to broaden that allegiance to include food, art and music.”

Entries for this year’s Miromoda competition closed on 31 May with an awards competition event to be held soon. The finalists then showcase their talent at New Zealand Fashion Week under the Miromoda Showcase in September.

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