Indigenous fashion opens London Fashion Week

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Despite not being able to show Māori and Pacific designers’ mahi at a special event in London due to the Queen’s death forcing a cancellation, the first Māori designer in the British Vogue, Kharl WiRepa, was still able to debut at London Fashion Week.

WiRepa (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Tainui, Te Arawa) presented his gowns with company Fashion’s Finest in an exclusive showcase that champions independent designers, at the Saint John’s Church near Hyde Park in London.

“Most of our models were of black descent,” WiRepa says, “which is really great because they were looking elegant, and the collection was something that’s truly stunning.

“It’s been a hectic experience getting to this show.”

Kharl’s dad, Roderick, is his son’s rock and was at the show to witness the historical moment.

“It’s important for my son being here. It’s the first time he’s been to London,” Roderick says.

Kharl’s designs weren’t all that debuted on opening night of the event – waiata Māori rang through the halls as models made their walk down the runway, including Maisey Rika’s Taku Inoi.

“Maisey, if you’re watching, sorry I didn’t get an APRA but we’re whanaunga,” Kharl jokes. “It was great having the show within the church and we had so much beautiful waiata here in England.”

“When they applauded Kharl, they carried on a little bit longer than the others,” Roderick says, “I’m not saying that because he’s my son. It’s what I saw and heard.”