Otago Polytechnic design student Molly Marsh has taken top honours at the 2023 MLT Hokonui Fashion Design Awards.

Ms Marsh, who lives in Dunedin, won the collections open section and the Mataura Licensing Trust award of excellence for her tennis-inspired collection, which featured a turf train and a tennis ball bag.

The garments took six months to create.

‘‘I’ve grown up with a grass tennis court at home in Ettrick so always played tennis on there with my family,’’ Ms Marsh said.

‘‘It’s a wonderful honour to win.

‘‘I was totally surprised. Being able to share with others is so special,’’ she said.

She plans to get through her degree and travel.

‘‘I will also design in the future,’’ she said.

She won before a capacity crowd at the Hokonui Fashion Design Awards gala evening at the Gore Town & Country Stadium on Saturday night.

Judge and Huffer brand founder Steve Dunstan said he was blown away by the talent and the future of fashion was in good hands.

Among those stepping out on the catwalk was television presenter and compere for the evening Hilary Barry, who charmed the crowd with her runway effort.

‘‘I am not a model. I’ve lost my breath. This is embarrassing. I should be fitter,’’ she said.

Southland farmer and mother of four Debbie Smith’s design Papatūānuku Earth Mother was also a crowd pleaser and won the avant garde open section and the people’s choice award.

The intricate garment has two million stitches.

‘‘It is a nod to New Zealand history. I have been working on it for three years, on and off,’’ she said.

In its 35th year, the Hokonui Fashion Design Awards are the longest-running competition of their kind in New Zealand and are used as a launch pad for designers.

More than 200 garments in 11 sections were worn by 40 models at the event.

Awards chairwoman Jacqui McKinney said this year’s event would bring an exciting new opportunity for the winners.

‘‘The best garments will grace the runway at New Zealand Fashion Week, adding a special bonus to their achievements.

‘‘The exposure gained from NZ Fashion Week would allow them to connect with prominent figures in the NZ fashion industry, presenting a rare chance to make an impact.’’