Fashion runway event Te Wero has not let Covid-19 keep it down.
The red-carpet fashion runway event, originally scheduled to be held in April but postponed due to lockdown, will go ahead in Rotorua in August, now that Government regulations around events have been relaxed.
Te Wero (the challenge) brings together a collaboration of emerging and established Māori designers in one event, including a good handful from Rotorua.
Wairata Warbrick (Tūhourangi, Ngāti Wāhiao) started her journey into the fashion industry at high school and soon found herself at university following her passion.
"From there I have been doing my own thing, producing collections and showcasing on runaways.
"Just last year I managed to showcase one of my collections at Vancouver Fashion Week."
Warbrick said the experience was eye-opening, however, there were not many indigenous runaways, so excitement levels were high for Te Wero.
"I'm really honoured to be a part of this and it is really cool to see what other New Zealand designers are doing in their fields.
"It's a great opportunity to bounce ideas off them as well."
Warbrick believes her upbringing in Whakarewarewa helped inspire and influence her art form.
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Gabrielle Duncan (Ngāti Whakaue) may be a familiar sight. It's her face which is plastered over the billboards around town.
At just 14, Te Wero will be her second modelling event but already it is an avenue she does not want to let go of.
"I am still new to the industry and would love to do more and see what the future holds for modelling in my life," Duncan told the Rotorua Daily Post.
"My current focus is my high school education and then moving on to university to study in the medical field. So, while I'd love to continue modelling, it would be part-time to help pay my education expenses."
Duncan said it was the ability to grow into a more confident self that attracted her to modelling but she did not see herself as a symbol for other young wāhine.
"However, if the courage it took for me to put myself out there, on a billboard no less in my hometown, gives someone else the courage, or encouragement to challenge their comfort zones, then I'm good with that."
Lead designer Taongahuia Maxwell owns Iti Gifts online and shares a retail store in Rotorua but has only been designing for a few years after a vocation change.
Although new to the fashion industry, she completed a Bachelor of Māori Art in 2017 and
established her label Kahu Huia (Huia Clothing) in 2019.
"Everything around me inspires me. I just like to conceptualise things in my own way from a Māori perspective."
Maxwell said lockdown gave her new inspiration for her pieces, and she was working on a new eight-piece collection in the daily section and a couple for the evening-wear section.
The designer said she made every garment with a purpose because she believed there was enough clothing in the fashion industry for people.
"I either design my own fabrics or conceptualise from fabrics.
"Some of my pieces have Māori aesthetic and others may not, but the storyline behind the whole conception of the garment is kaupapa Māori."
Organiser Peter Duncan said Māori fashion design was fast becoming a major contender on the global stage.
"It's a field that goes against the grain of traditional European thinking when it comes to fashion, putting masterfully created and contemporary and unique design in the spotlight."
Other participating designers include the renowned Jeanine Clarkin and jewellery and fashion designer Nichola Te Kiri.
Emerging designers Paulette Teatai-Ariki will also join the lineup along with jewellery designer Brady Walker who will provide his stainless steel pieces to adorn their garments.
- Te Wero is on from 6.30pm on August 15, at Rotorua's Energy Events Centre. Tickets are on sale now from Ticketmaster.