Inspired by the Rena oil disaster, a liquid latex creation by aspiring young fashion designer Charlotte Bishop took out top honours at the Hokonui Fashion Design Awards last night (Saturday July 29).
A sell-out crowd of 700 fashion-lovers packed Gore's Town and Country Stadium for a stunning three-and-a-half-hour showcase of emerging talent from around New Zealand.
Tauranga-based Ms Bishop, 30, was unable to attend the awards in person but was first delighted to learn via Skype screened live to the stadium about her win in the 'Avant Garde' category.
Later in the night and again live on the big screen she was "stunned" to be notified she was the overall Open Section winner and recipient of a $12,000 Ensign Award of Excellence package.
A fashion design student at Otago Polytechnic, based at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, she said the award wins were "amazing".
"It just blows my mind that I've been so successful at these awards, because this is going to change my life," she said.
Ms Bishop said the Hokonui Fashion Design Awards was "a great place" to start out in the fashion industry and showcase designs.
"I'm incredibly grateful to everyone involved and I'm going to run with the opportunities that winning the awards are presenting to me. I'm open for anything that comes my way.
"When Rena happened I felt I had to do something positive with a truly tragic situation, so I created a design to try and do some good."
A judging panel of top New Zealand designers including Barbara Lee, Doris DuPont, Lela Jacobs, James Dobson and Gore's Jim Geddes said they'd found it an incredibly difficult task to select 200 designs, out of the 300-plus entries submitted, to appear on the catwalk.
"Over three days we saw every single entry modelled up close and we were very, very impressed and amazed," said Ms DuPont.
"Many designs were bold and dynamic, and we particularly commend the schools section entries. If this is the standard we're having from schools we have a very bright future in New Zealand fashion.
"This year we've seen a real emphasis on craftsmanship, dying techniques and very good technical know-how, and the entries have been truly unique," she said.
Seven-year-old Nelson schoolboy Torenzo Monopoli, despite being the youngest competitor by far in the school's Avant Garde section, took out top honours with a stunning full length pink and purple creation.
Judges look at each entry 'blind', so were not aware of his age when they picked his design as the winner.
Hokonui Fashion Design Awards convenor Heather Paterson said she was "thrilled" with the success of this year's event and was very impressed with the calibre of this year's entries.
"The feedback I've received about the designs and their exceptional standard is fantastic," said Mrs Paterson.
"The opportunities the Awards present are huge, not only for the designers. Already one of the male models from last night's show has been contacted by a national modelling agency. He was pretty overwhelmed being his first time on the catwalk."
Even metrosexual Mayors Tracy Hicks and Tim Shadbolt -- of Gore and Invercargill respectively -- got in on the act, strutting their stuff in a menswear showcase with bare feet sporting bright red toe nail polish.
Mrs Paterson said she was already looking forward to the 25th anniversary event in 2013.
"This year we've worked hard to lift the profile of the event and engage more sponsors who have been hugely supportive.
"Planning is already underway for next year's 25th celebration which promises to be bigger and better than ever."
For all category winners and more images please go to www.hokonuifashion.co.nz.
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