When gasps of joy and a sea of delighted faces greet participants in a fashion show then you know something very special has stepped onto the stage.

Those emotions were very much in evidence at the Maori Art Deco Fashion Show staged at the Sound Shell on Saturday night — one of the great variety of Focus on Fashion events during the festival.

Joan Mohi, a sprightly 93 and clearly devoted to fine fashion, walked the catwalk accompanied by her great great grandsons Ben and TJ Vekene.

The lads, 14-year-old TJ and 12-year-old Ben who live in Flaxmere, were wearing suits which once belonged to their great great grandmother's late husband Joe.

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Twelve-year-old Ben Vekene, left, and 14-year-old brother TJ escorted their great great grandmother Joan Mohi at the fashion show. Photo / Supplied
Twelve-year-old Ben Vekene, left, and 14-year-old brother TJ escorted their great great grandmother Joan Mohi at the fashion show. Photo / Supplied

They pretty well stole the show and it was clearly an emotional moment for more than just whānau in attendance.

"The faces of the people and the 'oohs' and 'ahhs' from the crowd was just so beautiful — so special," granddaughter Hinewehi Mohi said.

"Nan was really buzzing — it was quite emotional."

She said her nan, who lives near Clive, had always been deeply devoted to her children, grandchildren and great great grandchildren and despite some initial trepidation agreed to step onto the catwalk as it would be an ideal time to celebrate them all.

Having her two great great grandsons accompany her, in their fine and historic suits, made it extra special.

"The boys loved it."

They had been keen to be involved last year but Ben was then too small to wear one of the suits.

"But they sprout so fast and this year he could wear it."

She said her nan was a keen collector of all sort of "very special" things from her long life and she had a special link to what had sparked the emergence of Art Deco.

On February 3, 1931, she went off to attend the Whakaki Native School between Napier and Wairoa and the earthquake struck.

"It was so terrifying she did not return for several months."

Every year since then when February 3 came round, she would still have a "few little moments" as the memories returned.

But last Saturday was not the first time "nan" had taken to the catwalk stage.

"She was in a fashion show at the marae a couple of years ago and she loved it."

It was the first time for the two lads though, and Hinewehi Mohi said they were ready and willing to take part again next year.

For show organiser Kellie Jessop it was also a very special moment as she is a niece of Joan Mohi.

"Very much a whanau affair," Hinewehi Mohi said with a smile, adding that her nan was happy to be part of the very special event but did not linger afterwards.

"She's a sport fanatic and wanted to get home to watch the rugby."