The Indigenous Runway Project to debut in Aotearoa

By Rahia Timutimu
Photo / The Indigenous Runway Project

The Indigenous Runway Project will make its way to New Zealand for the first time since its establishment in 2012.

Tina Waru, from Te Ātiawa and Ngāti Kuri, is the founder of the organisation where “kindred cultures come together to blend fashion, with culture and tradition; providing opportunities for Indigenous.”

Not only will eager Māori designers have the opportunity to showcase their work in front of an audience, girls from the age of 17 will have the opportunity to join the project and learn the systems of a fashion show, from modelling, to behind the scenes work with make-up, hair, styling and even stage management.

The project began in Australia in 2012; it was a tough road as it was completely voluntary.  Tina Marie didn’t receive funding and still doesn’t today.

Tina relocated to Australia as a psychologist 15 years ago to work with the Aboriginal people and thought she could do more for the people.  “This Runway Project is one of the creations to come out of her (psychology) mahi, she created that to assist with the Aboriginal people she was working with at the time,” says Airihi.

Tina’s mother, Airihi Waru is one of the trustees of the project based in NZ, and declares it’s an awesome way to showcase Māori on a fashion stage.

She says, “I think it’s a great initiative, it’s for our rangatahi - to get our rangatahi in fashion itself.  We do have a lot of rangatahi who are very keen in modelling and designing.  There’s never been a market for Māori, and it’s something that’s never seen before for indigenous people.”

Despite the struggle, many Māori and indigenous people have participated in her project.  Just last year, well-known Māori designers like Jeanine Clarkin, Maehe Ranginui and Shona Tawhiao travelled to Australia with their creations to show in the Australia production, and have indicated their interest to showcase their garments in Taranaki.

The show will be held in Taranaki in July, Tina's tūrangawaewae and where her parents are currently residing.

Airihi says this has always been a dream of hers, to help and work alongside her people just like her grandfather, Taniwharau Te Hoe Manuka (also known as Sonny Waru) did.  “She sort of inclined in following the footsteps of her grandfather, a very prominent person among the community and NZ, where he worked among the disadvantage kids at that time, and she followed along the same footpath in helping people.”

After the NZ show, the project hopes to be hosted in America and Canada to showcase the unique design of indigenous cultures from the respective countries.

For more information about the show, visit the official website here.