Fashion meets tradition
A dress made from Titahi Bay flax received accolades at this year’s Style Pasifika awards.
Local resident Kohai Grace entered the garment in the Traditionally Inspired section of the awards and was named runner-up. The awards were handed out in Auckland recently.
To make the dress, Ms Grace extracted the fibre from Titahi Bay harakeke (flax). She carefully dried and prepared the fibre before turning it into a dress.
‘‘ There are only certain varieties of harakeke you can extract the fibre from.
‘‘The fibre extracted from the Titahi Bay flax is soft and white,’’ Ms Grace said.
‘‘I happened to be in Titahi Bay and saw this flax and knew it was going to give me the right fibre. I had an idea [for a dress] that was running through my mind too much to ignore it. Then I found a good source [of flax] and once I started, I couldn’t stop.’’
It took a long time to prepare the fibre, but Ms Kohai said she preferred to use natural materials over synthetic ones.
‘‘It was what our ancestors did and it’s very important for me to keep those traditions, but you can still make things that are fashionable.
‘‘ I do make customary cloaks too, but I have an interest in making garments that could be seen to be fashionable.’’
Entering Style Pasifika provided Ms Grace with an opportunity so show off her fashionable piece. Though she could not attend this year’s show, Ms Grace has been to Style Pasifika before.
‘‘The show is great. It’s an exciting vibrant show. It’s a mixture of music and dance, and a whole lot of really great fashion.’’
Ms Grace teaches at Whitireia and runs workshops from her marae, Hongoeka. She weaves during her spare time.
‘‘I will be weaving for the rest of my life. It [weaving] is not what people might think. They think it’s therapeutic, and it can be. And it’s been seen to be healing, especially for women, but it’s a lot of hard of work and you can not get good at it overnight. It takes years to get good.’’
Ms Grace encourages people to give it a go.
‘‘Give it a try. You really need the passion, that’s the big thing. You’re strong passion will make up for the hard work. And the result, when you finish is very fulfilling. That’s why getting my piece in to the [ Pasifika] show was the ultimate thing, otherwise it would be on a mannequin, but instead it got walked down the catwalk.’’
Ms Grace began weaving at the Wellington Arts Centre in 1986.
Fashion forward: Kohai Grace’s garment was runner-up in the Traditionally Inspired section at Style Pasifika.