Unity Collection, a gallery of Maori art, design and fashion, has made an impact on the Matakana community since opening late last year.
“Unity has a wairua (spirit) of its own. There is something that brings people in and moves them,” owner Tania Rupapera (Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Ruahine) says.
Prior to Christmas, the store sold 60 sets of poi, which has inspired the launch of the Matakana Village Poi Club. Members are learning waiata and poi routines.
“Many wahine did poi when they were at school and seeing poi in the store brought back fond memories.”
Tania is also looking to create an event involving artist workshops to celebrate Matariki in June. The kaupapa of the store is to support the development of Maori creatives and embody the values of kotahitanga (oneness) and manaakitanga (hospitality).
“Everything is going back into growing the store as a platform for that.”
It weaves together Tania’s retail, fashion, arts and cultural backgrounds.
She first opened a fashion store under the Unity brand in Wellington in 1991. It was the first to stock now major brands such as Karen Walker, Trelise Cooper and Jimmy D.
“At that time, a lot of designers didn’t have their own store. Unity brought them together.”
Tania expanded with a store in Newmarket and was about to open another in Queenstown when she decided to ‘run away’ to Spain instead.
She became a cook aboard a super-yacht and travelled around Croatia, Greece, Italy and France before settling in Spain. She moved back to New Zealand after having her son and chose to settle in Matakana for its Mediterranean flavour.
She relaunched Unity as a recycle boutique, which sold sample items or previous season collections from high fashion brands. But when the fashion industry started launching its own ‘resale’ avenues to sell old or pre-owned items, Unity took a new direction.
“I had noticed that the Maori-designed accessories I’d been styling clothes with were ‘walking out the door’ as much as the garments. It showed me that Matakana was ready for a Maori design store.”
Tania has also been a life coach for 22 years. She studied with Tony Robins and Deepak Chopra, and has a qualification in neuro-linguistic programming.
She coaches through Maori Women Development Inc (MWDI), where she met some of the creatives who feature in the store.