Waikato-Tainui to host major fashion festival celebrating Pacific cultures

By Jessica Tyson

Waikato-Tainui are set to host a major fashion festival, Ohomairangi, uniting artists and designers from around Te Moananui-a-Kiwa, the Pacific.

The two-day event launched by the Ohomairangi Foundation on Thursday night in Hamilton will take place during Matariki 2020 celebrations with a goal to showcase indigenous fashion to the world.    

Ohomairangi spokesperson Kharl Wirepa says organisers have received support from the Kiingitanga and Tainui iwi.

“We've been working with Whatu Moana on getting the royal families over from the pacific isles to engage them with fashion industries of arts and culture from their own peoples. So in July later this year, we'll be hosting a major fashion festival, the Ohomairangi Fashion Show.”

Mercia Yates speaks at the Ohomairangi launch. Photo/File

Community advisor Mercia Yates says Ohomairangi means "to awaken the heavens" and the showcase is dedicated to principal Polynesian ancestor Ohomairangi, the son of Te Kuraimonoa a mortal woman and celestial being Puhaorangi who descended from the heavens.

"It's a first, therefore, we are grateful for the Kīngitanga and Tainui iwi. They have made it possible to connect with all four winds in the Pacific to bring this event together.”

Designers will represent seven cultures from Hawai'i, Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga, Cook Islands and Aotearoa. The seven cultures also represent the seven stars of Matariki.

“What we're doing is able to showcase to the rest of the world not just to New Zealand the best of indigenous fashion,” Wirepa says.

Designer Beau Takapu will represent Tonga. He is well known for featuring on Project Runway and for being the dressmaker for the Tongan royal family.

“It’s amazing, it’s almost a duty to stand with our peoples to showcase what the South Pacific can offer with Fashion," he says.

Takapu is currently working on a new collection to present at Ohomairangi.

“The collection itself will be a South Pacific-inspired Tongan Collection but just through my eyes with a lot of embellishments, some rich tones.”

The event will also showcase entertainers, including Polynesian group performers, kapa haka and musicians, hair and makeup artists, photographers and runway models.

Miss Rotorua 2019, Evarna Koia, is looking forward to the event where she has been chosen to model.

“It's just so incredible because, not only is it about fashion and glam, it's the unity. It's about our whānau all coming together, Pacific nations and everyone coming together and I can't wait. I think the event is just going to be uplifting, entertaining and just glamourous all together."

Wirepa says the event will also focus on connecting Iwi and Polynesian peoples through the sharing of Matariki migration histories.

“This gives Māori people an opportunity to show their work and share their stories. On the eve, we will be sharing Māori history through storytelling techniques using art and fashion," he says.

“So our goal is for the Ohomairangi Fashion Show to start off here in the Waikato-Tainui and then we will move it out to in our next show to be a bi-annual show. So the next event will be Hawai'i, we're really excited to have that partnership.”

The festival will be held on July 24 and 25 in Hamilton.