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Glitzy fashion event remains authentic to Pacific roots

Mary Afemata

The Pacific Fashion Fusion show at Ardmore Airport gave some of the region's best designers and models a chance to shine.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

It was a night of glitz and glamour, as a hangar next to a airport runway was transformed into a canvas for indigenous designers to express their authentic selves through culture and fashion.

Fijian-based designer Cherish Prasad was one of the international designers at the recent Pacific Fusion Fashion Show on 1 December .

“It’s always been a dream of mine to showcase internationally.”

Prasad’s collection is a remake of his looks from his last ten years of work and uses the paradise print inspired by his hometown Savusavu.

“The collection is called ‘noqu i lakolako’ in Fijian which is translated in English to, ‘my journey’.

“I’m trying to bring the culture. If you have a look at my motifs, it’s got a bit of Fiji in it … the colour combination that I’ve chosen, it’s normally the colour combination you work with tapa.

“It’s amazing how we’re linking our culture, and our traditions to our garments so kudos to the platform tonight for putting Pasifika on the map.”

When Prasad first started it was just size 8,10 to 12 and that was the biggest models got.

“You hardly saw big beautiful Pacific Islanders on the runway. And this show just had a diversity of all different types, shapes, sizes, even genders, and that's something I fell in love with.”

The show celebrates its seventh year, their biggest event to date brought together by a production team of over 170 people.

Twenty-one designers of Māori, Pacific and indigenous Australian descent debuted their original collections at the Ardmore Airport.

Eighty-five models took to the runway adorned in one-off pieces ranging from avante-garde and resort wear to streetwear.

Show director Nora Swann says it’s important for Pacific designers to express themselves through fashion, particularly to take Pacific style into the mainstream.

“It’s really important that we still stay true as Pasifika people.”

The night was visually stimulating, and the range of models was diverse.

“I think for us as Pasifika people, we’ve never kind of labeled … come to our platform because we have capacity-building workshops that help you … if you have a passion, then come and cast.”

The show also included a three-course meal of Pacific flavours.

The plates were as appetising as the beautiful garments on the runway.

Each collection displayed the designers unique cultural ideologies, from bold colours to neutral colours inspired by the colour of traditional tapa cloth.

Sammy Salsa, who’s real name is Sam Cowley-Lupo, says it's his second year as the creative director.

“We put this show on for them so that they have a platform to be able to be exposed to the mainstream fashion industry because fashion should be an inclusive thing.”

“It’s important to create a space for Pasifika creatives where both designers and models feel seen and accepted to be able to express themselves freely, their true identity in a safe passion space.”

Salsa connects the show’s theme of Descend to the journey his grandparents took to settle in New Zealand.

“Our grandparents descending into a foreign country, but also trying to keep their true cultural identity alive as well as trying to adapt … to our designers, it's also seeing how they can kind of weave their own pacific identity into their clothing without losing themselves.”

Gazelle Garcia debuted last year as a model and is happy to be back.

“I’m from the Philippines originally but I can really vouch for this show because not only do they provide avenues for models to start but also make everyone feel seen, heard, and work as a family.

Garcia modelled for Lipo last year and is grateful to be walking for five designers this year .

“It’s so hard to choose a favourite one … the outfits that I’ll be wearing from other designs also kinda represent a part of me like a unique personality.”

Hero Image: Model Rebekah Stowers on the runway wearing a dress from the Cherish collection. Photo/ Mary Afemata

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