30 Aug 2017

Fashionistas champion diversity with new modelling agency

3:03 pm on 30 August 2017

By John Boynton

A new modelling agency specialising in 'polyeurasian' models aims to increase diversity in the fashion industry.

Te Manava Syme-Buchanan, who is of Cook Island Maori.

Te Manava Syme-Buchanan, who is of Cook Island Maori. Photo: Facebook / Miromoda

The Miromoda Model Agency will debut during New Zealand Fashion Week and wants to continue to grow the pool of ethnically diverse models.

Te Manava Syme Buchanan, left, and Sonya Withers.

Te Manava Syme Buchanan, left, and Sonya Withers. Photo: RNZ / John Boynton

For the last nine years, Miromoda has been a platform for Māori designers to flourish in the fashion industry.

Kylie Mangan’s 2014 collection, Tukutuku.

Miromoda models and designs at the 2015 New Zealand Fashion Week. Photo: Miromoda

Miromoda founder Ata Te Kanawa said the next step for the organisation was to open a modelling agency.

This is the ninth year Mirimoda has shown at New Zealand Fashion Week and Ms Te Kanawa said over the years they had to recruit models from other agencies.

"It's just a really natural thing for us to be creating our own agency."

She said the agency aimed to hire models with a 'polyeurasian' background.

"For us we want to specialise in what we're calling polyeurasian models, so people of descent from Polynesia, Asia and European mix."

Te Manava Syme-Buchanan won a Miromoda modelling call and is walking the runway for the first time at New Zealand Fashion Week.

The 19-year-old grew up in Rarotonga and comes from the village of Turangi in Ngatangiia. He met Ms Te Kanawa by chance on a trip to Mitre 10 in Wellington.

The agency offered Polynesian models the chance to strive for a career in the industry, he said.

"The more representation of our Pasifika and Māori the better I say - we're quite a unique race as it is, the more exposure to the world you can get the better for both parties I suppose."

As well as juggling basketball commitments and training to become a policeman, Mr Syme-Buchanan said he was also interested in a career on the runway.

"I'm proud to say that I'm from the Cook Islands and hopefully this gives more exposure to the Cook Islands itself."

Miromoda merchandiser Sonya Withers said launching a modelling agency was a great achievement for Miromoda and shows the organisation's growth.

"We're a pretty ethnic country, everybody comes from different ethnic backgrounds and I think we need to reflect that on the catwalk - be more realistic about who we are and not be worried about the stock standard size or look."

Ms Withers said she also enjoys the whanaungatanga on offer at Miromoda.

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