Wahine take to international runway

Erica Ransfield.

They’re beautiful, unique and talented – and ready to prove it across two international runways. Or three, if you count the flight it takes to get there.

Papamoa woman Erica Ransfield, 23, is one of seven girls who is about to prove her talents at two major fashion shows in the United States.

The 23-year-old currently works as a PA/office manager for an architectural and drafting firm, while also juggling her own small business on the side.

And adding to an already-beaming list of achievements, she’s skyrocketed from newbie, to adding international gigs to her portfolio, and all in the space of a few months.

Four of the seven girls have already modelled for Karen Walker at a New York Fashion Week show on September 8, says Erica.

And on September 19, those same four girls, along with herself and two others, will be walking in the San Francisco Community Fashion Week.

“This is an opportunity that doesn't present itself very often, particularly for New Zealanders but more particularly, for Maori,” says Erica.

“There has only ever been one other Maori woman walk the New York runway, so for us to be sending more than four is huge.

“Not only does this experience benefit us and quite possibly our careers, but we see it as an opportunity to pave a way for Maori and Pacifica people who want to step into this industry.

“We were selected for these shows purely because to Americans, we look different and they've never seen beauty like Maori before, especially on the runway.”

Erica says it all began in April 2018 when Ataahua Portraits held a casting call on Facebook to find seven Maori wahine for their upcoming project.

“I had never modelled before,” she says, “so I took a shot in the dark, put myself forward and received a call back.

“I headed to Hamilton like a nervous wreck and had my first ever proper shoot with Niketa Brown, founder of Ataahua Portraits.”

Then a few weeks later, she received the good news.

“I had been chosen as one of seven girls out of the hundreds that had applied.”

From this, Ataahua Models modelling agency was born, using the shortlisted girls as its first models.

“Niketa saw huge potential in us, so she put our competition cards and head shots forward to the organisers of two shows in the United States.

“They were delighted to have six of us walk at the shows in New York and San Francisco. They actually let go of four of their models to make way for us. This was huge for us, as the agency is only four months old and some of us had never modelled before.”

She says she wants to inspire other Maori and Pacific people, and show them no dream is too big.

“Our people deserve to be recognised,” says Erica. “We are beautiful just like any other race or culture that steps onto the fashion world stage and us girls are proof of that.

“I really want to empower our people and give them the confidence to put themselves out there and be proud of who they are. This is what I hope we teach through this experience.”