For any dedicated follower of fashion, the film The First Monday in May - screening at this year's International Film Festival - will be a must-see.

The documentary goes behind-the-scenes at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) as its Costume Institute joins forces with Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour to plan the 2015 fundraiser, the glamorous Met Gala.

But New Zealand designer Shona Tawhiao will get a lot closer to fashion at the Met than seeing it on screen. Tawhiao, a Maori fibre artist and designer, travels to New York in two weeks to exhibit her work and take part in a three-week residency at the world-famous museum's Oceanic Galleries.

Her designs, woven from harakeke (flax) and dubbed "harakeke couture", have been shown all over the world, including Paris, London and Melbourne, but never in New York. She'll be there at the same time as the Met's current exhibition Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology, which includes garments by designers such as Dior, Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel.


While Tawhiao uses traditional materials and techniques, her designs are contemporary and frequently described as innovative, exquisite, dramatic and eye-catching.

"I'm really grateful for the opportunity, but I can't actually believe it's happening," says Tawhiao, who is from Tauranga. "It's quite a big thing for a little Maori weaver like me."

She says she owes the invitation to Maia Nuku, of Ngai Tai descent, who's been associate curator of Oceanic Art at the Met since February last year. Nuku, born and raised in London, was the first indigenous Pacific person ever appointed to a curatorial position at the Met.

"The work I'm doing is quite unique and she's been interested in it for some time," says Tawhiao, who has also designed costumes for film, television and music videos.

Aucklanders have a chance to see Tawhiao's work tonight before she jets off to New York.

She's joining fellow fashion designers Kharl WiRepa, Jeanine Clarkin and Designs by George for Te Korakora on Federal Street, one of the final events of this year's Matariki Festival.

Federal St will be closed for the street party, which includes Maori-inspired food, art, fashion and entertainment from 5-10pm.