How Aotearoa Dress: Street Style and Cultural Expression at Pasifika Festival

Mama Tukua Turia at Pasifika 2023

Eda Tang/Stuff

Mama Tukua Turia at Pasifika 2023

Tāmaki Makaurau’s iconic Pasifika Festival celebrates the cultures of many Pacific islands, offering a vibrant weekend of entertainment, performance, food, art and community.

Held at Western Springs Park and return after a three-year hiatus, this weekend’s festival was a special occasion for many – and that meant a special outfit was needed. Pou Tiaki reporter Eda Tang talked to some of those who came along about their style.

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Verotia Tetevano

Verotia wears a structured white blouse with patterned mustard pants and green sandals. She gets her style inspiration from her mother. “She’s very stylish and I like the way she designs her own clothes.”

Her mom’s style is “whatever comes to mind and whatever she sees,” says Tetevano. “She could take a sleeve from a dress and add it to a top.”

Although she no longer does, Tetevano used to design her own clothes as well.

Esther Grace Pekepo

Grace-Pekepo wears a Tahitian-inspired Cook Islands dress hand-sewn by Aunt Karaati from DaniFai Designs. Grace-Pekepo isn’t a seamstress yet, but she gives her designs to her aunts, and they come up with something like the piece she’s wearing.

“Something island, something Polynesian? Yes please,’ she says. “I was born and raised in the Rarotonga Cook Islands, so anything with colors, anything tropical that reminds me of home.”

Grace-Pekepo wasn’t on Pasifika as a performer, but wouldn’t look out of place if she were on stage. “I love anything I can dance in – that’s usually the goal. You look good, but it has to be practical.”

Litz Raborar

Raborar wears recycled clothing from New Lynn and from home in the Philippines. “It’s cheaper and I like saving money.” Their outfit, a white lace top and flared pants with flowers in soft autumn tones and a pop of periwinkle, is inspired by fall and spring.

“I just wear what feels good and looks good,” says Raborar.

Send Turkey

Māmā Tukua wears a handmade dress she designed. “This is what I do,” says Turia as she sews yellow thread to form a hibiscus. “I design”.

Turia makes pillowcases, cushion covers, tablecloths and handkerchiefs and teaches other moms how to sew, design and cut. She is too made dresses for the royal family together with designer Karen Walker.

“When you buy a dress in a store, you see that everyone is wearing the same style,” says Turia. “That’s why I sew my own. I can sew any dress I want.”

Giza Laile

Laile represents his Niue pride with the yellow flag around his waist. “I’m wearing one Niuean necklace called e’eh, a T-shirt from Culture Kings […] and these glasses from Glassons.”

“My style inspiration is pretty much based on vintage and old stuff from the 80s.”