Cutting-edge technology may be a feature of the World of Wearable Arts awards, but a Te Puke fashion design tutor has gone back to basics for her awards entry - and it has paid off.
Donna Dinsdale is a tutor at Toi Ohomai. She has been named as a finalist for this year's World of Wearable Art Awards Show.
Her entry, Wahine Toa, has been created sustainably using pre-loved woollen blankets, perspex offcuts, acrylic wool with the underneath section made from discarded curtain lining.
''I did an exhibition in 2018 and that started off the woollen blanket scenario,'' she says.
''I had a whole lot of blankets and I've just kept using them.''
She says sustainability is increasingly important in the fashion industry.
''We are quite accountable for a lot of stuff environmentally, so I am quite aware of that as a tutor - that's driven the work for the last few years.''
She says she appreciates the significance of the blankets to those who have given them to her.
''I've got a series of coats that I've done and as soon as someone wears one or you wear one, everyone stops and connects with it because, especially in New Zealand, everyone had one. There's all this history in them and I'm just really pleased that it connected with the judges because this is a really tough competition.''
It's not the first time Donna has been accepted for the awards, she has been a finalist twice before, once as part of a collaboration and once on her own.
But she has also entered and not been accepted a number of times.
''That's the nature of the beast when you are doing competitions and exhibitions, it means that it just wasn't the right fit at the right time. As a tutor I have students who look at what I do and those lessons about getting unselected are really important for me to pass on to them - you just have to pick yourself up and keep going.''
She says that while part of her design could be regarded as hi-tech - the laser-cut perspex - that is just a small element.
''I actually went to the WOW travelling exhibition at Christmas at Te Papa and I thought 'there's still got to be a place for textiles because it's part of our history and it's such an important part of garments and wearable art'.''
Putting the garment together took around six weeks.
''That wasn't too bad, but it was pretty intense - every weekend and every night.''
That was once Donna had settled on her design.
''I probably thought about [the design] for a few months. In my head I design it and technically work out how I'm going to make it happen and then draft up a pattern and go in and do the make.
''Part of the criteria when you do this, you've obviously got to have the wow factor and the idea, and they like it if you've got a strong narrative behind it, but you've also got to be able to get in and out of that garment for judging and rehearsals - so its got to be functional. So while you are making it you are thinking of all these things.''
She says for any competition, but especially WOW, entering is a huge undertaking.
''You have to commit a lot of time to get the results, otherwise it's not really worth entering because it's such a high level.''
Donna teaches on the Bachelor of Creative Industries at the Tauranga campus and has been part of the team for 20 years, teaching across various degrees and diplomas in the fashion design and creative technologies realms.
"I absolutely love sewing and was taught by the very, very best - my mum. And I never take those skills for granted. Her mother, in the 1930s, was one of the first women to do a tailoring apprenticeship in NZ and my other grandmother was also a dressmaker. It is in my DNA, it's great. My dad was also a landscaper, joiner and crafted custom furniture, so for me growing up was about being creative and making stuff!"
Donna's entry, Wahine Toa, which is now under wraps until the awards shows, is a celebration of the strength, unity, empowerment and beauty of Wahine Toa within Aotearoa.
There are two parts to the entry, a full-length circular cape made from woollen blankets with laser cut hanging perspex tags attached and a plaited woollen avant garde headpiece.
The overall silhouette of the cape represents the shape of the Matariki star during Māori New Year, the kaupapa behind this significant event in Aotearoa supports the spirit of Wahine Toa as a time of celebration, reflection, hope and unity.