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August 13, 2012 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

He Kahukura He Rerehua

Edgy Maori Design Style

Wiremu Barribal (Ngāti Raukawa, Te Atiawa me Te Rarawa) and Geneva Pomana (Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Porou, Nga Rauru,me Te Rarawa) opened Revolution Aotearoa in June 2011, a unique retail outlet featuring affordable, contemporary Māori art, jewellery, clothing and homeware, at the North City mall in Porirua.

The concept store Revolution Aotearoa showcases the award winning ‘Tu Ake’ brand, street and sportswear. The ‘Tu Ake’ concept originated as part of a joint collaboration and venture between two Māori associates, and graphic designer Wiremu Barriball.

The development of this upmarket clothing and shoe collection was inspired by Tā Moko (traditional Māori tattoo) and Whakairo (traditional wood carving), its edgy results proving very popular with the Māori demographic.

Geneva commented that “Māori are very discerning customers, recognising points of difference between Revolution Aotearoa’s contemporary designs, and avoiding commercial interests which proactively misappropriate Māori designs or traditional Māori iconography, either for cheap mass production or limited release”.

A market, irrespective of whether driven by Māori or mainstream, which misappropriates Māori designs without an inherent understanding of Kaupapa Māori context such as tikanga, kawa, mātauranga me kaitiakitanga does not provide value or benefit to Māori artists nor the wider Māori community. Geneva stated that ‘authenticity, quality and cultural integrity is a key driver for retaining Māori support”.

Wiremu has a lifelong passion for Māori (traditional and contemporary) art and design, stating that the inspiration for Revolution Aotearoa, reflects tradition within a modern context. Geneva outlined their products reflect ‘design combined with everyday functionality’.

While the majority of the in-store collection represent Wiremu’s own designs, the outlet has recently diversified to include the work of other Māori artists, including stunning pounamu pieces designed by Jason Nathan.

Another development includes the establishment of a Tā Moko design studio located inside the fashion outlet. Geneva Pomana commented that this is the first studio to open within a suburban mall, and will provide an opportunity for national and international Tā Moko artists visiting the capital to bring their art to the general public.

Geneva and Wiremu have five tamariki, and work hard to support the needs of the whānau, while balancing the demands of a successful fledgling commercial enterprise. Success has not been overnight, nor an easy ride, but a challenging learning process.

It began in 1998, when Wiremu was a student at the School of Music at Whitirea, and the couple began marketing his designs at national kapa haka and local events. An online store retailing the ‘Tū Ake’ brand preceded the opening of Revolution Aotearoa.

In 2009, Wiremu entered the ‘Tū Ake’ collection at the Miromoda Māori Fashion Design Awards, and won not only the Established Designer section, but the Supreme Winner award. The prize included showing the ‘Tū Ake’ clothing collection at 2009 Air New Zealand Fashion Week, and alongside First Nations designers at the Planet IndigenUs in Toronto, Canada

Intermittent periods during the development phase, Māori student graduates from Victoria University have provided professional advice, liaison and encouragement to support small sections of the couple’s creative endeavors— ‘ahakoa he iti, he pounamu’.

Heoi ano, the key message is that Ngāi Tauira and alumni across the country and overseas, can make a positive difference by actively supporting and promoting Māori owned and operated businesses in their future endeavours.

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