This story is from Stuff's Pou Tiaki team
Holding back tears, general manager of New Zealand Fashion Week (NZFW) Yasmin Farry was adorned with the gift of a woven piupiu kākahu from Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.
In contrast to the usual evening events, New Zealand Fashion Week opened on Monday morning around the pou tokomanawa (central heart post) of Ōrākei Marae at Takaparawhau (Bastion Point) in Auckland.
NZFW is the only international fashion event in Aotearoa and has been held in Tāmaki Makaurau since its inception in 2001. In a first-time partnership with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, NZFW has looked to the haukāinga to build a strong foundation in tikanga Māori into the fabric of the event.
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei chair Marama Royal said the iwi welcomed a relationship with NZFW which has provided the opportunity for a refreshed name that aligns to a cultural narrative relevant to Tāmaki Makaurau and to the kaupapa of NZFW.
The name Kahuria, inspired by "Te Kahu Tōpuni o Tuperiri", is a term used by the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei in pepeha which likens the “outstretched cloak of Tuperiri” to their tribal territories.
Designers and stakeholders of the fashion industry, donning their best blacks, were welcomed on to the marae by leaders of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. NZFW founder Dame Pieter Stewart, Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni and Auckland deputy mayor Desley Simpson were also in attendance.
Leading the ope, designer Kiri Nathan extended a karanga to the haukāinga (home people).
“Ko tō wiki tēnei! This is your week!” she was told, before leading the guests behind her on to the marae.
Nathan, who will be opening NZFW on Tuesday, was recognised by many of the speakers in the whare.
“Ko koe te tauira i tēnei mea i pai rawe te kākahu ki roto i Aotearoa,” said Te Aroha Grace to Nathan. “Katahi anō ka tū te Māori tuatahi ki runga ki tērā atamira. Ko koe tēnā.”
“You are the example for excellence in fashion in Aotearoa. Only recently have Māori gained prominence on that stage. You are part of that.”
This year, the event features more than 70 designers, including at least 10 who are Māori.
For one of the designers, Dr Bobby Luke (Ngāti Ruanui), it was an emotional experience seeing Māori recognised in the fashion industry.
“I was never reflected in the industry but I really wanted to be, therefore, I assimilated into those environments.
“I think all eyes are on us at the moment,” Luke said. “It’s really good to see that there is a move toward the input and the involvement of mana whenua.”
”I’m hoping it will be integral to every aspect of the week and the organisation and I hope that what is said here on the marae at Ōrākei permeates throughout the whole industry.”
He was happy to see Nathan recognised at the pōwhiri. He said a lot of Māori designers would not be in the industry if not for her efforts.
“There are many Māori designers that are not part of this, but are a part of our community.”
Following the pōwhiri, a kākahu made for NZFW, Kahuria, was blessed by matua Taiaha Hawke, one of the “Te Matatini Uncles” who caught the attention of the internet with their outfits at the Matatini pōwhiri in February.
Royal stood at the presentation of the taonga to NZFW.
“It was made by the ringaringa [hands] of my sister who is a beautiful weaver and also a beautiful cook,” she told the whare.
Royal’s sister, Beronia Scott, was in the kitchen during the pōwhiri, preparing kai for the guests.
“The name has stayed with the taonga because we wanted to represent the many talents of our New Zealand fashion designers.”
The kākahu is adorned with repurposed piupiu that have been well-worn and new piupiu.
“This is about resurfacing sustainability and what that looks like in the fashion world,” Royal said of her sister’s work.
“This beautiful taonga, Kahuria, is about our future and what happens for our mokopuna and the generations that we will probably never get to meet.”