Aroha means love for the land and its people. Aroha Wikotu could not be better named. She moved to Hamilton for love, has created a business there doing what she loves and operates it with respect for her environment and her customers.
WORDS LIZ FRENCH / PHOTOS SACHA KAHAKI
Aroha Wikotu is a young designer who has been adventurous enough to establish her own label, sensible enough to seek assistance, collaborative in sharing retail space and so aware of the fickle nature of fashion that she never expects anything to stay the same.
Aroha’s label is called Shikoba. Despite her mixed Maori and European heritage she has chosen an American Indian name which means feather but also denotes speed.
“My partner Anaru came up with the name,” she explains. “The native Indians are, like the Maori, a minority race, and Anaru also knew it denoted the feathery blaze down a horse’s nose and had seen it as a race horse’s name. A winner I hope!”
Interestingly the feather motif appears in a bright pinky purple fabric she has spread on her workroom table. There is no deep significance to this. She has chosen it as part of her spring summer range – the vibrant diaphanous fabric will highlight the shoulder area of tops in block colours. Pinks and purples, and bold florals including a delicious rose pattern, are strong components of this season’s range. Classic profiles prevail. She does two collections a year, a major undertaking for one designer, and a logical approach to making fashion more cost efficient for herself and for her clients.
“I am finding women are looking for trans-seasonal pieces, so I work on designs that can be layered and that complement each other. This time I have been inspired by the fabric patterns. It is an interesting departure as I have tended to favour single colours and put the emphasis on texture and applied design.”
Applied design is the integration of self designed – so unique to her label – texturing or prints on plain fabrics. Aroha has drawn on her family heritage and on her love of nature to create textures which include an interpretation of the way the Maori weave the kete. She has created motifs of pohutukawa and NZ native birds which are printed onto fabric, and has had designs especially woven. Thus many of the fabrics the Shikoba customer wears will not be duplicated by any other designer.
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