Look by Shona Tawhaio at Aho NZFW 2019. Image by Getty Images.
AHO is Māori designers Jeanine Clarkin and Shona Tawhiao working together and supporting each other. Each successful designers in their own right, they have bought their different skill sets together as “complimentary opposites” to work and show together.
We were welcomed into the space initially with a Wero by three warriors out in Freyberg Square. We followed them up into the second floor of the Ellen Melville Building where a Karanga and a Powhiri set the tone for what was to follow. It was beautiful and quite breathtaking to hear. You could see some of the international media were quite moved by the experience.
Jeanine Clarkin’s offering was called ‘Natural Beauty’ and the name could be referring to the beautiful women and men that walked as much as the fabric of the garments. The models walking for the show were from Red Eleven and Ataahua Models as well as friends of the designers. There was a wonderful mix of ages and shapes of wahine (including mana wahine).
Vintage natural wool blankets make up almost the entirety of Clarkin’s collection. The use of the blankets is part of Clarkin’s focus on sustainability that saw her speak in Paris at Conferences Oceanie earlier this year. But most importantly for her the use of blankets speaks to the taking of lands for blankets during the colonisation of New Zealand. This puts a different slant on the entire collection – rather than just looking at the pieces as beautiful objects to wear, they are strong political statements in their own right.
The vintage blankets came in different textures and finishes, different colours and patterns. Many that would have been familiar colours and patterns to many of the older people present. The satin binding on the blankets was cleverly used as hemlines, or sleeve details. The rest of the edging was often left raw. There were dresses in gold, soft pink, and a beautiful oversized coat dress in the softest pale green. Some of the dresses had a frilling detail in the same colour, others with a gold tartan detail. There were an eye catching pair of hot pants in a gold and orange tartan. The greens and teals where quite beautiful especially with an upholstery type fringing detail which looked like it had been repurposed. Both the blankets and the upholstery fringing are household items that many no longer see as useful. Clarkin takes them and gives them a purpose again. My highlights of the collections were the bright pink fitted dress and the hunter green floor length pantsuit with a large gold tartan “cape”.
The collection by both Miromoda and Fashion Museum illumni Shona Tawhiao started with three streetwear outfits made from black denim. A dress, a coat and a boiler suit – with each outfit accessorised with an oversized necklace in black white and red Perspex.
These were followed by the amazing weaving work of Shona. I have seen her work in past Miromoda catwalks, and she has also shown in WOW, and also designed the costumes for Pop Up Globe’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Her pieces are sculptural, dynamic – they aren’t for the faint hearted – but they are also incredibly beautiful. Weaving is her creative medium and she is incredibly skilled with each piece showing every one of the hours that have gone into finishing it. The “dresses” have additional head pieces – each one as intricate as the dress it is part off. Some of the skirts are enormous and so tactile that I had to resist the urge to reach out and touch it when it was in front of me. The runway was intimate and close so you got to see every detail.
Every outfit spoke of the strength and mana of the person who wore it and contrasted beautifully with the softness and gentle colour palette of the wool pieces from the first half. Both collections made by strong women artists with a clear vision of their own calling.
Images by Getty Images.