Mixing indigenous foundations with high end fashion is a concept not explored by many, but one that WHIRI designer, Keri Wanoa has mastered. Leading the way in indigenous design, Wanoa is one of New Zealand’s talented emerging fashion designers. With a 15 year long background in administration and financial management, the award winning designer started her progression to the fashion industry in 2006 undertaking study at Western Institute of Technology. With a desire to concentrate on her label she resigned from her position as Financial Manager for Te Reo o Taranaki Charitable Trust in early 2009 and in the same year showed her debut collection at Air New Zealand Fashion Week in both the New Generation and Miromoda shows. This extremely fast transition to showing at New Zealand Fashion Week is attestation to the craftmanship of Wanoa’s design technique. The artistry that is the WHIRI aesthetic lies solely in the ability to mix her eye for detail and style with her partner Sundgren’s extensive knowledge of customary art and oral histories. The design savvy pair offer an exciting new take on NZ fashion and leave us with a label that is charged with an energy and elegant aesthetic that subtly distinguishes them and their identity to Aotearoa/NZ .
Wanoa’s passion to raise the profile and respect for Māori design in fashion is not limited to the creative sector but is also evident in the community driven initiavtives she is involved in. She sits on a number of boards for Kura Kaupapa Māori and Kopae (schools run on Māori cultural principles) and has co-ordinated events such as “Tuku Iho” a fashion and art extravaganza celebrating Māori artists and designers; “Kapa Haakinakina” an initiative created to encourage inter-generational use of Māori language; run textile classes for tauira (students) and collaborated with schools to create and make uniforms and costumes for teams and performance groups.