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Friday, 26 April 2019 01:31 am

Student designer casts net wide for talent

Sep 14th, 2009 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News


Skater fashion: Chris Apisai with models Marshall Reedy (left), 19, and Ashalea Walker, 15.

The crowd that gathered to see Paopao – a free fashion show of Chris Apisai’s collection of caps, tee-shirts and skateboards – were treated to a showcase of young Porirua talent as well.

Mr Apisai says he wants to inspire young people to get into creative arts and did not mind sharing the spotlight.

“Paopao was about casting the net from my canoe and capturing and showcasing talent from around Porirua.”

The 25-year-old student of Whitireia Community Polytechnic will graduate at the end of the year with a degree in visual arts, majoring in textiles.

Mr Apisai says skateboards are the paopao, waka, vaka, or canoes of our youth and t-shirts and caps have become traditional attire. He wanted to bring the story of his ancestors into today’s society.

During last Friday’s show he had the crowd smiling as his models danced and did push-ups on a square outdoor catwalk.


Hip-hop dance champ James Gill takes flight.

Hosted by MCs from local radio station Holla FM, the show presented hip-hop dance champ James Gill, Aotea College singers Harmphonicz and the Mana Pasifika group from Porirua College.

Also included was the work of fellow students Jessica Winchcombe with a body adornment display and David Rimoni with his original hip hop video.

Mr Apisai’s work is influenced by modern Maori and Samoan patterns and he describes his work as island street wear.

Born in Samoa, where Mr Apisai spent the first six years of his life, he remembers loving the bright colours that inspire his work.

“I love bright colours. Bright colours always remind me of the islands… It reminds me of fales and lavalavas and the buses.” In a bid to look after the environment he used recycled skateboards and materials in his designs and invitations.


Vasa Johnston models at Paopao.

Growing up in Titahi Bay and Tawa, Mr Apisai says it has been a bumpy road sometimes and finding his love of art has been a test in perseverance. 

He began his tertiary education studying architecture at Victoria University, realised it was “not his thing” but discovered a love of design. Moving on to Massey he completed a diploma in fashion and design but still felt out of place as the only Samoan male in his class.

He says as a Pacific student he was better supported at Whitireia Polytechnic and having Margaret Tolland as his artist mentor has been “amazing”.

Visual arts tutor Deb Donnelly says Mr Apisai has a positive energy that people are drawn to and she is proud that he has provided a platform for a range of young Porirua talent she says needs to be seen and expressed.

Mr Apisai loves the connection of different cultures together, she says: “That’s why the doors open for other cultures to come through as well.”

One of Mr Apisai’s outfits made it to the Style Pasifika show in Auckland. He says he has even higher hopes for the future.

“I really want a job in the screen printing industry. Maybe open up my own studio. I want to be my own boss, definitely.”

More photos on Whitireia’s Facebook page.


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