Impressing international fashion eyes

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Red, white and black is the favoured palette for Maori political parties – Maori and Mana. Dozens of kapahaka performing arts costumes use it and it is seen on kowhaiwhai panels of meetings houses in scores of marae scattered throughout the country. Equally significant and topical, is its use on the tino rangatiratanga flag of Maori Sovereignty.

At the Miromoda Fashion Extravaganza, hosted by The Indigenous Maori Fashion Apparel Board (IMFAB) last week and part of the REAL New Zealand Festival, which runs alongside the 2011 Rugby World Cup, a new version of the popular palette popped from the end of the catwalk.

Auckland Label, Dmonic Intent – which immediately suggests anything but rural and cultural Maori – sent a model down the catwalk wearing a creation from their Once were righteous collection. It screamed confidence and sophistication as it fused structured wool with hounds tooth and signalled a clear message that Maori fashion designers under the Miromoda brand have well and truly moved beyond predictable koru-stamped attire.

In his post show review, REAL Festival New Zealand blogger, Jock Phillips asserts the urban spin of Maori fashion designers as logical given the huge shift from rural areas in the early 1960s. ‘These young Māori designers have grown up in the city; and their work reveals urban sophistication. The designs were consistently stylish, creative and really interesting to look at. They were all so elegant.’

Amongst the 200 VIP guests, a large group of French visitors, and a cluster of business people, hosted by New Zealand Trade & Enterprise were suitably impressed. “They loved every minute of the dinner, exhibition and show,” says Paris based Ariane Gonzalez, Trade Commissioner for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, who hopes to discuss opportunities for Maori fashion in the future with Miromoda organisers.

Miromoda cofounder, Ata Te Kanawa said, “We were so excited to host the French business people as well as other diplomatic guests that we completely overlooked the pressure on ourselves to impress the international fashion eye.” Adding, “Imagine the relief when they were saying things like ‘magnifique, brillante’ and how Miromoda should show in Paris.”

But talented Maori fashion designers alone are not what the Miromoda brand relies on. Project Coordinator Terina Cowan says NZ Fashion Week Founding Director, Pieter Stewart gave direction to organisers in 2008 to organise a national competition for Maori fashion designers and only cast Maori models to emphasise the indigenous point of difference on the catwalk.

“Pieter wanted to show international media and buyers something they wouldn’t see at Fashion Weeks in Australia, London and New York, so we pull out all stops to cast Maori models, make up artists, hair stylists and crew for any of our shows and as a result, we get what we want, she gets what she wants, and a whole lot of young people who would never be involved in fashion of this calibre or scale get to experience it all,” says Cowan.

She referred to twelve students from Wellington’s NZ Fashion Tech doing the three-year Fashion Diploma who jumped at the chance to be dressers, as well as her own younger sisters and even their friends who eagerly volunteered to work backstage.

Winner and runners up of the annual Miromoda competition have now cemented a place at Auckland’s NZ Fashion Week, recently presenting a showcase in the Westpac Tent to a packed capacity of 1000 people.

Last week’s Miromoda Fashion Extravaganza in Wellington, included a one off exhibition of ten kakahu (ceremonial cloaks) from five weavers, across four generations of one family. As well as a trade hall comprising 15 stalls all selling fashion-related product.

For more information : Contact Terina Cowan or Ata Te Kanawa 04 473 0557 or 027 5543382 Please credit images by Masanori Udagawa

• Model Christianne Gassner (Ngati Awa) models for Dmonic Intent

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