• Tue, 29, Aug, 2017 - 5:00:AM

Young Māori fashion designer Adrienne Whitewood on her first solo show at NZFW, dreams and inspiration

Image: One of Adrienne Whitewood's designs / Andrew Strickland / Shotta Photography

Young Māori designer Adrienne Whitewood is staging her first solo show at New Zealand Fashion Week this week. We caught up with her to talk about fashion, dreams, and inspiration.


Villainesse: Tell us a bit about your journey. How did you get involved in fashion? 

Adrienne Whitewood: My grandmother taught me how to sew when I was 8 years old and ever since then I have been obsessed with fashion and design. I made my first dress when I was just 8 years old as well. I have always had a passion for design and textiles

How excited are you to be putting on a solo show at New Zealand Fashion Week? 

Soo excited (can’t you tell? Hahaha!). Yes, this is a big deal for me. I came with an intent to own the high-end print market so putting myself out there as a commercial designer is definitely exciting and nerve racking!

Tell us about the collection.

The collection is entitled Tā which means to print and is inspired by my love of Rotorua artists and people. I have four main prints – Niho, Torakaraka, Aonui and Whakarare which are all inspired by four Māori art disciplines ngā mahi whakairo (carving), raranga (weaving), tukutuku (woven lattice work), taaniko (twining). 

How do you want women to feel when they wear your clothes?

Excited! I want a buyer to purchase a garment from me and receive so many great comments about what they wear that they become a brand ambassador.

What inspires you?

My hometown of Rotorua. Growing up around the cultural hub of Māoridom you can't help but be inspired, it’s such a beautiful place. 

What challenges have you faced to get to this stage?

Being young in the industry and trying to find my way around exporting, buying in, finding an agent - all those kinds of things. It’s always an adventure!

How did you overcome them?

I just chipped away at things one by one. I would write goals and make sure I was achieving these daily.

What are your dreams and aspirations?

To be able to share my brand and creative vision with the world!

What would you say to other young Māori women who have big dreams?

You don’t have to know everything but be confident in what you do know!

How does your whakapapa inform your work?

Although my connections are predominantly with Rongowhakaata, I have small connections to Te Arawa through Rongomaipapa marae and have always had a close connection with the people of Rotorua. Their drive and ambition is inspiring.

What does feminism mean to you?

Being brought up around a lot of strong Māori values and idealogy, I always knew men had a role and women had a role. We are made differently so we bring different strengths to the table. I believe everyone should be celebrated and acknowledged for their own strengths and skills, whatever and whoever they may be.

Adrienne Whitewood will show her new collection at New Zealand Fashion Week on Wednesday the 30th of August. More information about her work can be found here


  • Fashion /
  • NZFW /
  • New Zealand Fashion Week /
  • Adrienne Whitewood /
  • Maori /
  • Design /
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