Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Maori designers get shot at big time

Dominion Post, Stuff
Last updated 14:12 22/09/2009

Fashion Week has made room for promising designers this week, with a section for Maori.

Eight up-and-coming Maori designers are to show their work at Auckland Fashion Week, after being chosen from the inaugural Miromoda Maori Fashion Design Awards.

The overall winner of the Miromoda competition also got to show at Planet IndigenUS Festival in Toronto, Canada.

Wiremu Barriball, a shoe, sunglasses and pressure sportswear designer from Titahi Bay near Wellington was the overall winner of the awards in June.

His collection, called Tu Ake, has direct links to his Maori heritage.

"It's Maori inspired and the things I was brought up with, it's traditional with a contemporary flavour to it."

It was "touch and go" whether he would enter the awards in the first place, he said.

"I wasn't sure I had enough to show, like to cover the models on the catwalk," he laughed.

Entering worked in his favour, and he was blissfully unaware of the trip to Canada attached to coming out on top.

Barriball called himself fresh blood in the fashion world, saying it's something he "just stumbled across".

"I've done so much in my career as an artist, fashion has only come in the last one-and-a-half years. Basically I've been labelled as a fashion designer, I need to have time to get used to it, I don't think I've paid my dues."

Up until winning a spot to show his work, he was quite ignorant about Fashion Week and its prestige, he said.

"It's mind-blowing now to think that we are involved in it. It's embarrassing I've taken it so lightly."

In contrast, Nelson designer Samara Vercoe knew exactly what she was getting herself into when she also won a spot through the Miromoda awards.

A design graduate of Massey University, Vercoe entered the competition with the aim of getting to Fashion Week.

She planned to show eight pieces on Thursday, which she has been frantically working on completing.

Her designs were conceptual, but still commercially viable, based on hand-dying to create a range of moody-blue garments, she said.

"It's all hand-detailed as well, beading and embroidery, there's a lot of time that goes into it."

The details she put into the garments was reflective of her love of vintage clothing and her desire to get people to spend money on quality clothing, rather than buying something made to last only one season.

"I want to encourage people to see the quality and appreciate the time and effort that goes into the clothes so they will treasure it more than discard it."
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Auckland-based designer Kiri Nathan was incorporating vintage influences in her collection, also showing at Miromoda on Thursday.

Her foray into fashion was about following her dreams, she said.

While she studied fashion 16 years ago, she had been working full-time in an unrelated field for the past decade. However, two years ago, she "left her job and chased her dream".

Her focus back on design lead her to win the Supreme award last year at the Style Pasifika Fashion awards, and then she also won at Miromoda.

"I've gone from having a business card to putting a full collection together, having professional photo shoot, catalogues, the whole shebang in 12 weeks."

Her collection was also inspired by vintage, but she has a definite Maori element to her designs.

"The collection is inspired by korowai traditional weave and the other is my grandmother's love of the vintage era, when a woman dresses like a woman, elegant and beautiful."

She will show eight one-off gowns, made of satins, silks and traditional woven korowai. She was a one-woman show with her dresses; she designed and constructed them.

She has never sold one of her works as she has not thought of it as a business yet. Expansion will be something she will think about after Fashion Week.