Contemporary Māori fashion sets runway alight

Stepping through Te Puia’s impressive carved entrance and into the billowing forces of the geothermal valley, I knew I was in for a fashion show far outside out of the ordinary.

Tiki Ahua – an annual one-night fashion and design extravaganza, saw 22 designers from Rotorua and beyond come together in an explosion of contemporary Māori culture on 24 September.

From the moment I entered, the inaugural event’s themeKā Mura:Set Alight was apparent, with dramatic amber lighting and fiery flames surrounding us.

Te Pūpū and Te Hoata, the goddesses of fire and the inspiration for 2016’s theme, were introduced to us through an animation, which followed their journey from Hawaiki to New Zealand, to save the great chief and priest of the Te Arawa canoe, Ngatoroirangi.

In their desperate search, the goddesses were responsible for creating the geothermal imprint of the North Island – the same geothermal activity that surrounded us duringTiki Ahua – Kā Mura.

Kā describes the act of setting alight, while mura is the flame – together they describe the fostering of life and creation, bringing something new into existence.

After a steamy dance from the hip-hop group Street Candee to get the crowd going, some of the region’s best emerging designers stole the stage with their interpretation of contemporary Māori fashion.

This was followed by the streetwear segment, which featured designs from Rise Supply Co (by Ranui Samuels) and MVS (by Glen Maclachlan).

Te Puia | New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) has a mandated responsibility to ensure the perpetuation of traditional Māori arts and crafts, and as such, students and tutors from the institute were heavily involved – particularly in the adornment section.

In a unique showcase, two NZMACI tā moko (tattoo) artists practiced their craft on willing recipients backstage, which was live-streamed onto the big screen throughout the evening.

The intricate carving works of Stacy Gordine, his Te Takapū (National Stone and Bone Carving School) students and Rangi Kipa were celebrated with a powerful, emotional and slightly cheeky show, while the collections from Marama jewellery (by Courtney Jameison) and Henare (by Nerida Johnstone) with Masami (by Julie Puddick) and were bold and feminine with an eclectic edge.

Weaving is the pioneering art form of Māori fashion, and a dedicated segment to the past and present weavers of the valley was held, featuring breathtaking woven creations.

This fitting tribute was followed by the daywear segment, featuring dreamy pieces from Jeanine Clarkin, Natura Aura (by Leilani and Anastasia Rickard), Reremoana Sheridan, Ahu (By Adrienne Whitewood), and Mitchell Vincent Collection (by Mitchell Vincent).

The eveningwear segment featured Kharl WiRepa Couture and Kiri Nathan and finally, the avant-garde segment celebrated the collections of Tihi King and Dmonic Intent (by Maxine Wooldridge, Kristin Leitch and Samara and Joe Walker).

Street Candee kept us entertained throughout the evening, along with X-Factor runner up, Whenua Patuwai and Auckland-based pianist, guitarist and singer/songwriter, Seth Haapu. But it was the country’s most successful recording artist, Che Fu who really got the crowd going with an epic grand finale which had everyone on their feet until midnight. 

Going forward, Tiki Āhua is set to evolve from a one-night fashion and design extravaganza, to an annual week-long festival that pulls together aspiring, emerging and established designers with industry leaders. Together they will collaborate and do business across workshops, meetings and in retail and trade events.

Tiki Āhua 2016 was an extravaganza of music, dance, creativity and fashion, and is well on its way to establishing itself as New Zealand’s most esteemed cultural runway event.