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NZ Fashion Week: ‘Like coming home’ - Rotorua model returns to runway for Kharl WiRepa

Maioha Panapa

NZ Fashion Week: 'Like coming home' - Rotorua model returns to runway

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

For Teina Cassidy, modelling is not just about fashion.

What excites her about walking the runway at NZ Fashion Week is showcasing the work of Māori designer Kharl WiRepa - a designer she respects for being “different” in more ways than one.

Cassidy (Ngāti Kuri and Ngāpuhi) is looking forward to returning to the runway this week after a post-Covid hiatus and is especially thrilled to walk for WiRepa, from Rotorua, for the first time.

“It was really cool being given this opportunity, and with Kharl it’s different.

“He’s looked after me and the other models. Everything ... he’s taken care of.

“Last year, I think it cost me a little bit more out of my own pocket to get up there [to NZ Fashion Week].

“But with Kharl it’s different, I don’t want to call it charity, but we’re so blessed because he understands what this means to us.”

She says she had been modelling for four years before Covid hit and was crushed by the impact it had on modelling opportunities.

“Since then, all the designers, photographers, and models have been working twice as hard, so this year’s NZ Fashion Week is going to be big.”

Cassidy worked with WiRepa as a contestant in the Miss Rotorua 2022 Pageant to try something new. But she missed modelling.

“The pageantry was really outside of my comfort zone, and not something I would usually put myself in.

“When he [WiRepa] did ask me to do the pageant, it was something fun, different and new.

“But for me, modelling is like coming home.”

Cassidy has worked with designers before but says her first behind-the-scenes experiences with WiRepa have been inspiring.

“I love that the designer I’m walking for has got a good message.

“He makes dresses for girls of all sizes. It’s different and creative but welcoming at the same time.

“And I’m looking forward to being a part of that, to make a difference.”

Model Teina Cassidy: “Modelling is like coming home.” Photo / Maioha Panapa

Cassidy says her advice to young girls wanting to venture into the fashion industry is to go for it.

“I wish I could go back in time and tell younger me, ‘just give it a go’.

“I can’t tell you how many [modelling] opportunities I missed because I was too scared, then watched the other girls from home and was jealous.

“Don’t be like me and learn the hard way because nine times out of 10 you’re going to have the best time.”

WiRepa says it’s important to include local talent in this year’s collection and hopes it’s another avenue Rotorua rangatahi (youth) can take advantage of.

“It’s very important for me to include those from my hometown to allow them to fulfil their dreams through my own.

“It’s imperative for me to acknowledge my Te Arawa whakapapa by including our Te Arawa beauties, who can give those Auckland girls a run for their money.

“It’s not the first time we’ve done this initiative, and it won’t be the last.”

WiRepa is showing two different collections at Auckland’s Viaduct this week.

The first is on Wednesday, 8.30pm, and the second on Saturday, 8.30pm.

Tickets to WiRepa’s first collection have sold out.

At his second, Te Matatini winners Te Whānau a Apanui will appear alongside guests including recording artist and TV presenter Ria Hall and Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi.

For more information on NZ Fashion Week - NZ Fashion Week

Hero image: Model Teina Cassidy, pictured at Rotorua's Government Gardens. Photo / Maioha Panapa

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