This must-visit fashion exhibition explores what Aotearoa style means today

8 September 2019
By Fashion Quarterly


The exhibition Moana Currents celebrates how our Māori and Pasifika heritage has shaped the way Kiwis dress, and asks, what constitutes Aotearoa style today?

Curated by New Zealand Fashion Museum founder Doris de Pont, and stylist and fashion journalist Dan Ahwa (of the NZ Herald’s Viva magazine), the exhibition will showcase clothing, jewellery, textile, art and more.

“Doris and I are both always looking at what people wear, and we see a distinctive modern Aotearoa style emerging,” says Dan. “You can see elements of Māori and Pacific materials, motifs, ways of dressing and adornment that have become part of our everyday wardrobe. We wanted to explore that relationship and celebrate that we are dressing ourselves as people of the Pacific: Moana people.”

Pieces from established and emerging designers are displayed, including from Adrienne Whitewood, Trelise Cooper, Papa Clothing, Karen Walker and Dru Douglas’ label Lumai (his white cotton pleated dress, pictured above, draws on his own Papua New Guinea heritage, with hand embroidery of a Duk Duk figure).

London-based New Zealand designer Emilia Wickstead, who wrote about her own Pacific heritage and its influence in a recent issue of British Vogue, has lent her merino wool cloak and jumpsuit, part of a capsule collection with The Woolmark Company, to the curators.

The exhibition also touches on trailblazers who have helped shape our style history. Politician Whetu Tirikatene Sullivan became our first Māori woman cabinet minister in 1972, and was known for an incredible working wardrobe that deliberately showcased indigenous motifs and artists.

In the ‘90s, a powerful emergence of Polynesian pride and urban Pasifika culture was led by the likes of the Pacific Sisters collective and those behind Style Pasifika, followed by the rise of Aotearoa hip-hop culture and streetwear in the 2000s. A shirt from King Kapisi’s label Overstayer – then sold in Farmers stores – is in the exhibition too.

“We hope it invites people to think about our identity and self-representation,” says Dan. “It’s a reminder that we have so much we can draw on for inspiration where our aesthetic can be a little more thoughtful and in tune with our place in the world.

“We don’t need to be looking overseas for inspiration all the time because we’ve got a culture, and a way of dressing that is completely unique.”

Moana Currents: Dressing Aotearoa Now is at Auckland’s Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery from until December 1. Visit

This article originally appeared in Fashion Quarterly Issue 3, 2019.

Photo: Mara Sommer
Stylist: Dan Ahwa
Model: Layla from Unique Model Management


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