The death of her mum was the inspiration behind Waimumu designer Debbie Smith’s award-winning creation Papatūānuku Mother Earth.
The garment won this year’s avant garde and people’s choice awards at the MLT Hokonui Fashion Design Awards.
Smith was 8 years old when her 29-year-old mother died, she said.
‘‘I didn’t go to the funeral. I felt like I had never dealt with it.
‘‘I have now realised all the design work I do has a theme of motherhood around it, and every one of my garments comes back to the loss of my mother.’’
As Waimumu Art Exhibition president, she was in contact with artists.
‘‘I spent over a decade and a lot of time encouraging others to put their work out there.’’
She realised she needed to back herself and first entered the awards in 2016, where she was runner-up in the recycled section.
Papatūānuku Mother Earth took three years to complete.
Its fabric was made out of 2 million stitches.
Flowers on the design were made from recycled fabric. The piece also featured a papier-mache baby.
‘‘There is no pattern — I just put things together.
“Garments evolve over time I add and add and add.
‘‘For me, . . .you [need to] take a step back and don’t do it to please other people. It has to make you feel good.’’
Surrounding herself with talented people inspired her.
‘‘[You’re] not born with creativity, you have to learn it.’’
She was now a mother of four and grandmother of one.
Winning the awards meant a trip to New Zealand Fashion Week to show her work.
‘‘It is also an acknowledgement [of] the Hokonui Fashion Award. I am proud to be part of the Hokonuis.’’
A bonus from the weekend was having Seven Sharp presenter Hilary Barry wear her crown of flowers and jewels at the award’s presentation.
She was already planning her work for next year’s competition, when she planned to use fabric based on pen and ink drawings by local artist Michaela Voigt.