Raised on the quiet shores of Ahuriri, 23-year-old Erica Mereheni Ransfield has suddenly found herself heading for the catwalk in San Francisco.

Earlier this year, Ransfield was accepted for a casting call with Hamilton based modelling agency Ataahua Portraits, for their up-and-coming project Nga Ahuatanga O Te Taiao.

Ataahua was started by Niketa Brown, who saw such potential in Ransfield and the other candidates that she decided to start her own agency.

Her vision was to choose six Maori wāhine to represent the elements of Te Wai, Te Ahi, Te Hau, Te Whenua, Te Po and Te Whetu.

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Ransfield was cast as Te Whenua, or Mother Earth.

Raised in Ahuriri, Erica Ransfield is heading to San Francisco to walk at Fashion Week. Photo / Supplied
Raised in Ahuriri, Erica Ransfield is heading to San Francisco to walk at Fashion Week. Photo / Supplied

Now, in just four months, Ransfield and the other models have been invited to walk at San Francisco Fashion Week later in September.

"I feel so privileged and excited to showcase our Maoritanga on the global fashion scene," she said.

"I'm not sure who we're wearing yet, but honestly, we could wearing paper bags and be happy.

"The thing I've been trying to push is just that his opens doors for other Māori and Pacifica women. It's not something that gets offered very often to my people."

Although Ransfield grew up in Ahuriri and attended Hukarere Maori Girls College from 2008-2011, she now lives in Tauranga working as an office manager at an architectural firm in Papamoa.

With a passion for health and fitness, she also has her own personal business selling fitness resistance bands.

"At school I got bullied a lot and when I met my partner two years ago we both really wanted to change, so we got involved in health and fitness and it's helped me in so many ways.

"I just want to teach others positivity and empowerment."

Since the news of her overseas adventure, Ransfield said she had received plenty of support from friends and family from all around the East Cape.

"I am extremely humbled by the support from my immediate family and Ngati Porou whanau all the way from the East Cape of Te Araroa and Rangitukia.

"They are hosting a fundraiser at the Gisborne RSA in my honour this weekend."

Ransfield grew up in Ahuriri and attended Hukarere Maori Girls College and now lives in Tauranga. Photo / Andrew Warner
Ransfield grew up in Ahuriri and attended Hukarere Maori Girls College and now lives in Tauranga. Photo / Andrew Warner

Her mother, Andrea Mills, said the family are still pinching themselves on hearing the news.

"When she took part in photos at the modelling agency, the staff realised these young woman had more than just photographic potential and so they put their names forward for New York Fashion Week and Erica didn't expect that they would get accepted.

"She needs to raise about $5000 and so far we've raised about $3000."