Regional | Cook Islands

Recognising the Pasifika connection to Matariki through fashion

Photographer / David Rowe

The catwalk assembles in Waikato showcasing a “world-class” fashion event, Ohomairangi Matariki, which celebrates ancestors navigating the Matariki constellation to Aotearoa.

The project led by Māori designer Kharl Wirepa collaborated with designers from across the Pacific, including Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, Cook Islands and Hawaii to create seven stories that represent "the seven stars of Matariki.”

Māori fashion designer Kharl Wirepa and Ohomairangi models. Photographer / David Rowe 
Photographer / David Rowe

While the resurgence of Matariki is apparent in Aotearoa, it is also a sacred kaupapa that is celebrated throughout Pasifika islands. The show highlights the whakapapa of Ohomairangi, which ties in Wirepa and his upbringing in Te Arawa, while the show has been hosted in Tainui.

“We’re really excited to have a Māori and Pacific collaboration in a way that hasn’t been done before.

"Across Pasifika, Matariki is celebrated by all the islands. It’s not just a Māori holiday or a Māori practice."

The show held at Wintec's The Atrium in Hamilton was a suitable backdrop that infused rustic architecture and symbols of the constellations and highlighted Aotearoa unique style. Indigenous designers made great use of the space that included Tongan born Bou Fanoa who previously exhibited her collection of kakahu to Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Place in London.

Tongan designer Bou Fanoa and model. Photographer / David Rowe 

For Wirepa, fashion is a platform that tells indigenous stories portraying glitz and glamour. The concept is supported by Waikato-Tainui Endowed College, Trust Waikato, Te Rūnanga o Kirikiriroa and Kiingitanga.

Models, designers and dignitaries, including Cook Island royalty Queen Pā Tepaeru Upokotini Taiteariki Marie Ariki of Takitumu Vaka, were welcomed to the event at a formal pōhiri at Tūrangawaewae Marae in Ngāruawāhia.

“The only Pacific fashion and the only real New Zealand fashion is those that are designed by the indigenous people.”

Te Ao Marama News journalist and former Miss New Zealand Jess Tyson. Photographer / David Rowe