Rotorua designer Taongahuia Maxwell was buzzing after showing her work at New Zealand Fashion Week yesterday.

Included in the Miromoda Showcase, Taongahuia Maxwell said her designs looked so much better on the runway than on her shop mannequins.

A model walks the runway in a design by Taongahuia Maxwell during the Miromoda Showcase. Photo / Getty Images
A model walks the runway in a design by Taongahuia Maxwell during the Miromoda Showcase. Photo / Getty Images

"It [the Miromoda Showcase] was just awesome," Maxwell said. "For me, seeing my designs up on the runway was almost surreal, but awesome nevertheless."

The opportunity to show her work came after Maxwell was named as a runner-up in the emerging designers' category at the Indigenous Māori Fashion Apparel Board's annual competition earlier this year.

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"To be here, with all of these other talented designers, all of these amazing support people who have gone out of their way to help me out, the whole thing has just been incredible."

She said whanau and friends had taken the time to see the show and had been blown away with her designs.

"They really had no idea what sort of things I create and I think they got a bit of a fright," she laughed.

Maxwell, who is in her first year of design and admits she has taken only baby steps in to the fashion industry, owns Iti Gifts and Apparel in Rotorua. She also has a degree in in Maori Art and is studying toward a degree in creative technology, majoring in fashion art, through Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology.

Maxwell laughs when she hears people refer to her as a newcomer to the fashion scene, simply because she's been making clothes since she was a child. "But I have learned that making clothes and fashion aren't necessarily the same thing."

A model walks the runway in a design by Taongahuia Maxwell during the Miromoda Showcase. Photo / Getty Images
A model walks the runway in a design by Taongahuia Maxwell during the Miromoda Showcase. Photo / Getty Images

Her first show was Rotorua's Oho Fashion Show in 2017, the second Huia – a Maori Fashion Show – in October of the same year. Huia, the brainchild of Maxwell, was organised to bring together the creative businesses of Rotorua's Hinemoa St for a community event.

Now, she says, it's time to come home to Rotorua and make sure her designs are "out there and available" for people to buy.

"Ultimately my goal is to see people wearing my clothes. Although most of my designs are culturally inspired - conceptually they come from my Taha Maori - I want my clothes to be for everybody. Some of my prints are vibrant and in your face, while others are more subtle."