Rotorua designer Taongahuia Maxwell will be showcasing her designs at New Zealand Fashion Week next month, and she started fashion studies only this year.

She has a degree in Māori art and is completing the first of three years of study towards a degree in creative technology majoring in fashion art at Toi Ohomoi Institute of Technology.

Maxwell [Ngāti Uekaha, Ngāti Maniapoto] is chief executive of Iti Gifts and Kahu Huia Apparel, and she fits her studies around part-time work in the Toa Māori, Hinemoa St store.

She was recently named as a runner-up in the emerging designers' category at the Indigenous Māori Fashion Apparel Board's annual competition Miromoda in Wellington.

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Taongahuia Maxwell will be showcasing her designs at New Zealand Fashion Week next month. Photo/Ben Fraser
Taongahuia Maxwell will be showcasing her designs at New Zealand Fashion Week next month. Photo/Ben Fraser

The board aimed to advance the quality status of Māori fashion design and to raise its artistic and professional standards.

Maxwell said her success in Wellington came as a surprise.

"I applied last year but I did not have sufficient knowledge of what was required to enter."

As a runner-up, she was guaranteed a spot at NZ Fashion Week that starts at the end of August.

The shortlisted entrants faced a panel of judges, led by NZ Fashion Week founder, Dame Pieter Stewart, NZ Fashion Week business manager Janey Evett, and Wellington-based international Lucire fashion magazine publisher Jack Yan.

The runway show at Pataka Art & Museum was sold out.

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Maxwell's result comes off the back of her inclusion in the Global Indigenous Runway 2018 at the Melbourne Fashion Festival in March.

She said she had always been creative, and her designs are inspired and conceptualised from various aspects of her Māori culture.

Maxwell wants her fashion label "Kahu Huia" to be known as "kākahu with kaupapa".

Her "biggest learning curve" in the fashion world had been going back to study.

"My first degree helped but my hands are my eyes. I learn by doing. Toi Ohomai has been giving me the tools to work towards a collection."