Art & creativity  |  19 Feb 2020

A stylish new fashion exhibition at Canterbury Museum explores the contemporary identity of Aotearoa by drawing together the threads of Pacific heritage.

Curated by New Zealand Fashion Museum founder and designer Doris de Pont and stylist Dan Ahwa, Moana Currents: Dressing Aotearoa Now delves into New Zealanders’ sartorial personality.

The exhibition captures how New Zealanders dress today and the Pacific influence that has helped create and shape a distinctive Aotearoa identity.

“The exhibition documents how our history of migration and cultural exchange is visible in what we wear and how we adorn ourselves,” Ms de Pont says.

“With the migration of many different people  spread across generations  our identity and self-representation has evolved over time.

“Who we are and how we dress is a reflection of those journeys  both past and present.”

Moana Currents: Dressing Aotearoa Now looks at the history of migration and cultural exchange, reflecting adaption and adoption in the Pacific.

The curators have selected many striking pieces from emerging and established New Zealand designers as they explore several themes, including technology, heritage craft techniques, the evolution of cultural motifs and the dialogue between wrapping and structured dressing.

Among the modern-day treasures on show at the museum are Trelise Cooper’s colourful mu’umu’u-inspired dress, a merino wool wrap by leading international designer Emilia Wickstead that evokes a majestic cloak, and urban “Overstayer” wear by hip hop artist Bill Urale (aka King Kapisi).

Andrew Douglas’ Duk-Duk dress is also a contemporary reimagining of a mu’umu’u-style outfit, referencing Melanesia.

The exhibition features several items of Pacific-inspired jewellery, including the “dancing tiki” by Neil Adock, the “hei tiki” by Kereama Taepa, a cloth-bead necklace by Fran Allison and shell and glass bead earrings by Zelda Murray.

These explore traditional forms while using materials and technologies in fresh ways.

Moana Currents: Dressing Aotearoa Now opens at Canterbury Museum on 22 February.