New hikoi in the fashion industry for Taranaki designer

By Jessica Tyson

Taranaki designer Bobby Campbell Luke is walking down a new and exciting path in the fashion industry after announcing his solo show in the 2019 New Zealand Fashion Week (NZFW).

For the past three years, Luke, of Ngāti Ruanui, has showcased his collections at NZFW alongside other Māori designers in the MIROMODA show.

“In order for me to grow I needed to split off and start to experiment myself and how I could work for the way I do things,” he says.

Going solo brings new challenges, especially financially, but the most enjoyable part is collaborating with others, he says.

“To me, that’s growth. That’s extending a lineage, a whakapapa for me."

Luke, 27, originally from Hāwera, also has a Masters in Visual Arts and is working on his PhD. His show this year is part of a project within his study.

"It was also an opportunity for me to use the show as an agent for part of my PhD. So all of this is encompassed in a bigger four-year project that I'm doing."

Hau Rongo

The name of the project is 'Hau Rongo', 'The Breath of Rongo', he says.

"Rongo is a mechanism for peace, rangimarie, and it’s also an ilk of Taranaki. A lot of those encompassing teachings that I've researched in terms of those things have all rolled into it," he says.

With his research, he is determined to decolonise western interdisciplinary art and design practices through kaupapa Māori and huri matauranga; forms of exchanging holistic knowledge told through a creative output.

“What reflects in the collection is what is reflective of the project," he says.

Whiri Papa

His new collection is named 'Whiri Papa', a kairaranga term which means the twinning of three threads.

"Within this collection, there are three threads with three stories and those stories encompass my upbringing, my observations that my mothers and also I have a fascination with the kitchen."

This year he's appeared in Hong Kong Fashion Week and visited China with the Kahui Fashion Collective, run by renowned Māori designer Kiri Nathan.

"That was the biggest influence I've had this year. I learned about fabric sourcing, manufacturing, dealings with China, how to present yourself on an international level, but also one of the biggest parts of it was being able to find a whānau."

He will always remember MIROMODA, the whānau who has been there since the beginning.

"It’s definitely been the initiative that’s put me in a place that I am at at the moment. If it wasn’t for Ata Te Kanawa, I wouldn’t be where I am."

Luke’s show will be at the Auckland Town Hall on Wednesday, August 28.