Leilani Rickard, from a young age, has always enjoyed a unique and different sense of dress style. Her mother, aunt and grandmother were keen dress makers and started their own small business, manufacturing children’s clothing. Leilani and her sisters, got to wear unique clothing that nobody else had, and she felt proud of it.

Leilani’s granddaughter Anastasia Rickard has learnt to work with Harakeke alongside Leilani. Together they began a small business making Piu Piu, a traditional Maori skirt-like garment, made of flax strands that are woven into the waistband, for Schools and Kapa Haka groups for a number of years. They both have the same passion and respect for Harakeke and for fashion that also has run in their family for generations. Anastasia and Leilani’s fashion ideas are inspired by their cultural heritage, nature and science.

Leilani and Anastasia started experimenting with the Harakeke weaving to create beautiful, creative and contemporary designs. “We like thinking outside the square and create things that are truly unique and have never been achieved before” says Leilani, “We like fashion that is different, and that captures people’s eyes”.

In 2007, Leilani and Anastasia decided to enter into Rotorua’s wearable arts competition. They created a hand woven fibre garment that had a mix of traditional and contemporary elements. Leilani and Anastasia felt inspired to create more of their own unique ideas. The idea for traditional Maori designs on hosiery was born, and two years later the first two designs Tipu and Koru were finished. The hosiery range, Iwi Creations has since evolved to eight different designs all inspired by Maori culture.

In 2008 Anastasia was working at Scion as a Student Research Assistant, where she worked on different microscopes analysing different native weaving plants, including Harakeke. Here she befriended a German Scientist who wanted to learn more about Pa Harakeke. Anastasia asked her grandmother to give her friend a tour for the day, showing her the various native plants in the area. As a token of gratitude, Anastasia’s friend gave a CD to Leilani. When Leilani looked at what was on the CD, she was spell bound by the inner beauty of microscopic Harakeke imagery that the scientist had given her as a gift. Leilani believed she had to do something special with these microscope images.

To do Harakeke justice, Leilani and Anastasia came up with the idea to create a high street fashion range comprised of high quality garments that have an emotional connection to nature. They began the new range with rain wear collection ‘Weather the Storm’, inspired by their Maori ancestors who would wear Paki (rainwear made from Harakeke), they felt it was very fitting.

The fashion name Natura Aura was born. ‘Natura’ being the Latin term for Nature (chosen by Anastasia for her science and art design background) and ‘Aura’ (chosen by Leilani for her weaving, artistic and creative background), the name reflects the fusion of science, nature and fashion while being inspired by their cultural heritage.

Leilani and Anastasia entered the Miromoda fashion competition in 2013 and ended up winning the Avant Garde section, with the prize; to showcase their range at New Zealand Fashion Week.

At New Zealand’s fashion week, their unique designs caught the eye of super model and international fashion show producer Jessica Minh Anh. She invited them to showcase their fashion on a runway in Paris. In 2015 Leilani and Anastasia jumped at the opportunity and packed their bags to attend. Leilani said it felt amazing to be able to display their garments on the catwalk and getting to meet people in the industry that could give them advice. Jessica Minh Ahn personally showed the garments off on the floating cat walk on the River Seine in Paris.  “We also got to meet with a fashion distributor that supplies high end fashion stores in Europe, he told us our unique designs would fit in really well in Europe, that’s when we realised we could make our dream come true of owning an international fashion brand” says Anastasia. Now back in New Zealand, Leilani and Anastasia will continue on working hard to make their dream a reality.

In 2016, both Leilani and Anastasia won the Established Designer Category at Miromoda and once again they will be showcasing their fashion ranges at Fashion Week.

“Working with my grandmother has been a pleasure,” says Anastasia, “We have similar tastes and passions in life. She has supported me throughout my science studies and career and I am truly happy that we are taking our unique perspective on Fashion to the world.”