Miromoda delivers again with emerging talent

The eight designers that make up the NZPost Miromoda Showcase at New Zealand Fashion Week this year were understandably nervous about their first time in the runway spotlight. But they could rest easy knowing they were selected by leaders in the fashion industry to represent the artistic and professional standards of Māori fashion design.  

By Christy Wong and Emma Raho

Held in June and now in its ninth year, the Miromoda Fashion Design Awards Competition offers fashion designers who identify as Maori the chance to compete in three categories, supreme, emerging and avant garde. It is the winners and runners up that are the lucky few whose designs show in the NZ Post Miromoda Showcase at New Zealand Fashion Week.

Misty Ratima’s collection on the runway

“NZ Post is proud to once again be supporting emerging, indigenous, New Zealand talent, through Miromoda,” says Tina Morgan, Head of Brand, Marcomms and Sponsorship at NZ Post. “The NZ Post Miromoda Showcase at NZ Fashion Week is a platform by which some of our bright, new talent can showcase their design skills to the world,” she says. “We want to ensure that this opportunity is maximised by supporting these designers with logistics know-how, to aid in business growth and allow the designers to concentrate on their creative strategy.”

The 2017 competition judging panel consisted of Dame Pieter Stewart, founder of NZ Fashion Week, Janey Evett who worked for New York based designer Nicole Miller and Lucire fashion magazine publisher, Jack Yan. For the first time this year Miromoda provided an opportunity for the selected designers to present the inspiration behind their collections to the public before they hit the catwalk in a Sneak Peek event on the eve of the NZ Post Miromoda Showcase, once again supported by NZ Post. GOOD was at the sneak peek to hear what went into the winning collections, inspired their design concepts and see the garments close up.

Overall Winner: Misty Ratima

When Misty Ratima saw the 2010 Miromoda show she was so inspired to design Maori Fashion she started a journey that led to her being named the Supreme winner of the same competition seven years later. A descendant of Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongowhakaata, Rongomaiwahine and Ngāti Hine, Misty strives to create a fusion of traditional cultural and elements in her collection, named ‘Matariki Ahunga Nui’ or ‘Matariki provider of plentiful food’; reflecting the importance of celebrating unity, hospitality, whānau and sharing.

Miromoda avante garde winner Christopher Huia-Woods with his designs.

There are many legends about the stars of Martariki but Misty chose to focus on the whaea (mother) surrounded by her six daughters, that journey across the sky every year to visit their tupuna wahine, Papatuanuku. The collection is therefore feminine influenced luxe streetwear, featuring embroidered imagery to celebrate the mother and designs that make a bold statement with block colours. “While distinctly Misty, we could already imagine her well-made, wearable creations proudly displayed in a boutique window or strutting down the street,” said judge Janey Evett. Eventually Misty hopes to launch her own fashion label called Te Kohu.

PHOTO: Misty Photo caption: Miromoda winner Misty Ratima with her fashion designs. Photograph by Zhan Ellott, Taken Design {takendesign.co.nz} LINK

Emerging Designer winner: Jacob Coutie
In a collection just for the boys, Jacob Coutie created layered and highly wearable menswear inspired by the environment and lifestyle of Aotearoa. Coming up through the ranks of men’s retail, Jacob gained a fair bit of knowledge on how the men of New Zealand dress and began his journey in design at Victoria University. His collection is a combination of loose and fitted wear mixed with tailoring, blended with utilitarian elements providing functionality and comfort.

Called ‘Toa’, his work portrays a journey of a man overcoming internal obstacles and challenges. “There are so many connotationsin those three little letters,” he says. “Toa is seen as a warrior in a sort of western sense but I’m trying to extract the concepts of bravery and success and overcoming obstacles to achieve something.”

Jacob wanted to pull apart notions of masculine and feminine and put them into garments. “So I have a lot of soft white silky pieces contrasted with hard-core denim/black garments with paint splattered on them,” he says.  Layers feature conceptually and physically, as each garment added another dimension to the story the collection tells as a whole.

Jacob says ‘Toa’ is his most profoundly tikanga Māori-inspired collection and while the garments don’t feature obvious Māori motifs there are deep concepts he wants to get across, like notions of rangatiratanga – a mix of chieftainship and self-awareness and identity. “It’s just tokenism to pop a koru on something and think that’s made it Māori – I want to put a bit more thought into it,” he says.

Jacob says the ultimate achievement for him would be having people comprehend the level of thought that’s gone into every element of his collection, and as the judges were “most impressed by where he drew his inspiration before translating it into a cohesive point of view,” looks like he succeeded.

PHOTO: Jacob Photo caption: Miromoda emerging designer winner Jacob Coutie with his designs. Photograph by Zhan Ellott, Taken Design {takendesign.co.nz} LINK

Avant-garde winner: Christopher Huia-Woods
Fashion isn’t Christopher Huia-Woods’ first career, nor his first time at Miromoda. The former hairdresser shot into the public sphere in 2012 after designing the dress worn by Miss New Zealand during the Miss World finals.

In his winning collection, Christopher first wanted to learn the constructed knotting technique used by Maori men to build fish and eel nets or bird traps. Rather than starting with a drawing or concept, Christopher experimented with tying his garments around mannequins, allowing them to evolve organically. Each piece took over 100 hours to complete, but Christopher says he found the process cathartic, soothing and almost meditative.

Hero image: Miromoda winner Misty Ratima with her fashion designs.

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