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.

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