Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Pacific fusion fashion takes flight on Ardmore runway

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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Hanalei Foliaki | Reporter/Director

In a groundbreaking celebration of fashion and cultural migration, the 2023 Pacific Fusion Fashion Show (PFFS) took centre stage at the NZ Warbirds Aviation Airport in Ardmore. 

This year’s event showcased a vibrant fusion of styles, paying homage to the perpetual migration of Pacific fashion rooted in Aotearoa.

Nora Swann, the Founder of PFFS, expressed her enthusiasm for the event’s evolution. 

“A few years ago, we tossed around the idea of a runway on a runway, so this was the closest we could get to having it on a runway,” she says. 

Under the theme Descend the event explored the ongoing journey of Pacific fashion, prompting contemplation about its future trajectory, something Swann is optimistic about.

“This year, we took the first-ever Pacific collective to New Zealand Fashion Week. It’s about where we’re going to take it,” she says.

“There are heaps of exciting emerging designers who are taking the lead from our established designers, showcasing opportunities, possibilities, and potential.”

The runway saw a range of emerging designers, including Ata’ataoletaeao McNealy, also known as ‘Afatasi’, an Afro-Polynesian creative artist raised in San Francisco. 

McNealy says she was excited to be expanding her horizons as a creative. 

“This is such a huge moment in my career. I really just wanted to push myself and expand and grow as a creative and an artist and this show has absolutely given me the opportunity to do that,” she shared.

One of the most inspiring moments came from Tia Semi, a Perth-based model and designer with disabilities who debuted her line, Funk n’ Soul 97. 

Born with deafness and cerebral palsy, Tia showcased her determination to pursue her passion and redefine the norms within the fashion industry by designing an entire line, as well as modelling it, on the night. 

Another standout was Peni Taehia Moala, a Queenstown-based designer, reflecting on his lifelong passion for creativity. 

“As a kid, I always wanted to create and be crafty. I’ve been in the industry for 13 to 15 years, and it’s a tough industry, very cutthroat,” he says.

“But with an organisation like this, Pacific Fashion Fusion directed by Nora, it’s people like that who we need to support us to get it up and going.”

For Founder Nora Swann, the goal remains to nurture and promote the diversity showcased through the PFFS platform. 

“It’s really their own perception of what Pacific fashion means to them. So, of course, you’re going to see some traditional pieces on the runway, contemporary fashion, a nice mix,” she says.

She also stressed the importance of supporting Pacific fashion by purchasing pieces from the designers and spreading the word.

The 2023 Pacific Fusion Fashion Show celebrated style, innovation and inclusivity, marking yet another successful and significant milestone in Aotearoa’s Pacific fashion industry.

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