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2021 Award Of Excellence winning entry by Ari Terekhova. Photo / Still Vision Photography

With A Designer-Stacked Judging Panel & Bumper Prize Pool, It's An Exciting Year For These Historic Fashion Awards

Supporting emerging designers is more important than ever, and The Mataura Licensing Trust Hokonui Fashion Design Awards has been fostering local talent for 34 years

Juliette Hogan, Huffer's Steve Dunstan and Twenty-seven Names' Rachel Easting and Anjali Burnett are all heading south for this year's Mataura Licensing Trust Hokonui Fashion Design Awards.

The designers will sit on the judging panel for the historic event, which has a long, rich history of supporting budding designers and working with the industry’s leading figures (previous judges include Karen Walker, Liz Findlay of Zambesi and Doris de Pont).

It’s a major event in the Southland calendar, the awards can trace its roots back to 1988, making it one of the longest-running fashion events in the country. MLT Hokonui Fashion Design Awards is an integral part of Gore’s creative community, and the fashion scene of South Island bringing visitors from around the country to Gore.

The 2022 awards will be held across two nights at the Gore Town & Country Stadium, Tickets are open to the public — on sale from July 6 — and there are two events on the schedule: Strictly Design on July 29 and the Gala Awards on July 30.

This year’s categories include menswear, collections, natural fibres and avante garde. In a change reflective of the times, the definitions for the glamour, daywear and upcycled sections have been updated. Garments are judged on elements including design, cut, finishing, innovation, and how well they reflect current trends and forward-thinking.

Photo / Still Vision Photography

Designers who place first and second in each category receive a cash prize, and there are additional awards for garments in each of the eleven sections, as well as awards of excellence for the Open Section and School Section, and the Young Designer Award. This year also sees the launch of a new People’s Choice Award.

Thanks to event partners like the Mataura Licensing Trust, there is a wealth of prize money on offer. Totalling $42,000 (up from $34,000 last year) across the various awards, winning can be game-changing for young talent.

Last year's awards were won by Christchurch’s Ari Terekhova. Previous entrants and award-winners have gone on to considerable success — including Charmaine Reveley and Donna Tulloch. Jojo Ross won the 2012 streetwear category, and has since gone on to present a solo show at NZFW in 2019, and has featured in Viva and Vogue Italia.

READ: The Mataura Licensing Trust Hokonui Fashion Design Awards Places A Spotlight On Southern Style

Attending the Hokonui Fashion Design Awards is a unique experience, and a chance to see fresh, new design thinking from around the country in one place.

With tickets on sale now, Viva spoke to chairperson Bronnie Grant about what to expect at this year’s awards, and why you should be there.

What's new and exciting about this year's awards?

As a committee, we are continually working hard to build on the show from the year before and showcase the designers in a professional and positive way. 2022 has seen us significantly increase our prize money for Award winners and runners-up in all categories both Open and Schools.

Our designers are the single most important part of the Awards and it is important to the committee that their time and effort in producing these amazing garments are recognised. We have also introduced a small number of merchandise items into the show to see if this is an area that we could expand further.

2022 has seen a focus for the committee on increasing awareness around the MLT Hokonui Fashion Design Awards for our school-aged students in terms of entering garments, volunteering in the Event or Wardrobe aspect of the awards, and the whole design process from start to finish. It is great to be putting time, energy and resources into future-proofing the event in our local community.

What can attendees expect to see at the show?

The HFDA organising committee is continually reflecting and evolving the show to incorporate current global themes and trends into the show. Our production team does a fantastic job of weaving entertainment, dance and theatre showcases around the amazing garments that grace the catwalk. The show promises to be as engaging and glamourous as previous years.

We have also introduced a People’s Choice Award for 2022 which will encourage the audience to choose their favourite garment providing another avenue to showcase our designers. We are really excited about the Cardrona Distillery People’s Choice Award and hoping to increase participation across both the Strictly Design show on Friday night and Gala Evening on Saturday night.

Photo / Still Vision Photography

How has the show evolved through the past couple of years?

It is really uplifting as a group of volunteers to see the show grow and improve from year to year. The quality of garments and new ideas from our talented designers of all ages across Aotearoa never ceases to amaze the people working behind the scenes, judges and audience.

We are really fortunate to attract high-quality judges who bring their own sense of fashion and a different aspect to the awards each year. This year’s high-profile judges include – Steven Dunstan, Juliette Hogan, Rachel Easting and Anjali Burnett, who we are looking forward to hosting and showcasing all the MLT Hokonui Fashion Awards has to offer.

The production team continues to improve the lighting effects, sound and overall wow factor of the show each year which is a fitting tribute to the hard work in the wardrobe area. We are exceptionally fortunate to have Katrina Bristow working with our models, who every year without fail turns our fantastic young people into classy, sassy, confident models showing off the garments in a professional manner.

We are fortunate to have fantastic local community support in terms of volunteer time and sponsorship – without either the Hokonui Fashion Design Awards would not go ahead. The Mataura Licensing Trust are our Naming Rights Sponsor and we are very appreciative of their financial support enabling the show to proceed with certainty each year. Our fantastic sponsors allow us to continue to grow from year to year and enable our team to explore new ideas bringing a different experience to the audience every year.

Is it always easy to find such amazing judges, and why?

We are very lucky that our good name precedes us and when approached judges generally say yes which is great. I definitely would not say it is easy but rewarding and exciting when we get such awesome people to take time away from their families and businesses to judge and be a part of the MLT Hokonui Fashion Design Awards.

We are incredibly grateful to all of our judges, past and present, who bring their perspective to the Awards table and give us feedback for the following year which enables us to continue to grow our event and maintain that high standard, quality event.

What does the future look like for the awards?

Fantastic – the number and quality of the garments are growing and we are close to full capacity with our audiences for both shows. We have a hard-working committee and volunteer team with sound succession planning in place to ensure there are people willing, and able to step up to the challenge of organising such a big event each year. With continual support from our sponsors and sound financial management of past committees, the future is looking very bright for the Awards.

2021 Menswear Award winning entry by George Borrie. Photo / Still Vision Photography

What's unique about Southland fashion, and why should it be on Viva readers' radars?

The MLT Hokonui Fashion Design Awards are the longest running and only fashion show of its kind providing a competitive platform for aspiring fashion designers to showcase their designs in front of well-regarded industry leaders. It gives an opportunity for anyone in New Zealand to design a garment and have it modelled on a professional catwalk which is unique and quite special.

The Hokonui Fashion Design Awards is not just about showcasing Southland fashion, it is showcasing fashion on a national scale with designers from all over New Zealand. It is a platform to be seen and recognised and who knows — a winning section photo that Viva publishes one year might be the next big thing in New Zealand fashion a few years later — you have seen it here first!

Why is supporting emerging designers so important to you?

It’s all about sustainability of the industry — if you don’t have emerging designers eventually you don’t have designers. In all aspects of life, there needs to be a platform for emerging talent and the fashion industry is no exception. The MLT Hokonui Fashion Design Awards has provided that platform, nationally, for the last 34 years and we are really excited to continue to provide this opportunity and see where the next 10 years takes us.

Tickets are available from July 6 from Iticket.co.nz, and from Gore’s own St James Theatre.

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