Etching whakapapa into garments

Kristy Bedi - "etching whakapapa into fabric."

Kristy Bedi – “etching whakapapa into fabric.”

Christchurch-based Ngāi Tahu designer Kristy Bedi will exhibit her collection, Aho Manawa as part of the Miromoda Showcase at New Zealand Fashion Week 2015 in Auckland, from 24-30 August.

Miromoda was developed by the Indigenous Māori Fashion Apparel Board (IMFAB), to nurture and support young Māori designers in the early stages of their careers. The finalists display their talent at New Zealand Fashion Week as part of the Miromoda Showcase.

Kristy’s collection, based on the concept of kōwhaiwhai, was one of 20 shortlisted to appear before the Miromoda Fashion Awards judging panel on 27 June in Hamilton. She placed third in the Emerging Designer category and earned herself a place in the showcase at New Zealand Fashion week.

When asked how she felt to be taking part in New Zealand’s premier fashion event, Kristy admitted that it hadn’t really sunk in yet. Completing and submitting her collection to Miromoda was a milestone in itself and she says “it was more about my personal process than the outcomes”.

Kristy is affiliated to Kāti Huirapa Rūnaka ki Puketeraki, and has completed a combined degree in Māori Visual Arts and Politics at Massey University in Palmerston North.

One of Kristy's earlier garments.

One of Kristy’s earlier garments.

“There’s a big difference between mainstream fine arts degrees, which are based in Western philosophies and traditions, and a Māori Visual Arts degree, which is based in kaupapa Māori and whakapapa,” she says.

This awareness of and respect for Māori history and artistic traditions, is central to the development of Kristy’s collection. Her garments are intended for urban professional women, and aim to convey a level of elegance and sophistication, plus tradition and authenticity. She based her designs on the concept of kōwhaiwhai, the red and black patterns that decorate the rafters of wharenui, and used these colours and patterns in her garments. She says that she was inspired by both the aesthetic of kōwhaiwhai, as well as the whakaaro around connection and whakapapa that it embodies.

Kōwhaiwhai patterns are underpinned by elements of symmetry, and are united by one continuous line. This line is the aho manawa, or heart-line, which is also the name of Kristy’s collection.

Wrapping paper designed by Aho Design.

Wrapping paper designed by Aho Creative.

She likens this central line to an umbilical cord.
“It ties us and our whakapapa,to the very creation of the world, to the formation of life itself, to te kore, te pō, te ao marama.”

This holistic attitude is reflected throughout Kristy’s approach to creating her collection. Her true passion lies in textiles and design rather than fashion itself, so in addition to designing and sewing the garments, she also created the fabric. She used the technique of devoré, in which chemicals are applied to a mixed-fibre textile, causing some of the fibres to dissolve.

This left her kōwhaiwhai etched into the fabric as a semi-transparent pattern against the remaining, more solidly woven fabric. Kristy described this process as “literally etching whakapapa into a garment”.

Photos of Kristy’s collection are embargoed until after New Zealand Fashion Week. Until then Kristy is busy completing two new looks to add to her existing six, so that she has eight to show on The Runway. She also runs her own business, Aho Creative. The Miromoda Showcase takes place on the main runway on Thursday 27 August at 1pm.