Display showcases threads of world

Local women have loaned out 15 dresses from range of countries

Judith Lacy






If your social media feed of friends in exotic, sunny climes is getting you down, a display at The Plaza could be just the tonic. Threads of Culture showcases 15 dresses from China, India, Iran, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Aotearoa that have been lent by Palmerston North women. Among the dresses is the gown Carmela Laylo will wear during New York Fashion Week in September. It is handwoven from banana fibre. There is also a contemporary version of a hieke (rain cape) made by Christina Winitana. The display is a collaboration between The Plaza and Palmerston North City Library. When the Festival of Cultures was cancelled this year, library intercultural services officer Hina Cheema was keen to find a way to bring some of the festival’s colour to the city within Covid-19 guidelines. She got in touch with The Plaza marketing manager Lucy Eberhardt, who was keen to help. Eberhardt says the mall is increasing its community engagement and people going through it might not visit the library on a regular basis. Her goal was to create something beautiful but educational and as The Plaza has a lot of fashion retailers, the dress display was a good fit. The cultural dresses provide individual connections to the past, which are lovely to share. Cheema was keen for a venue with a lot of foot traffic to give visibility to the city’s multicultural communities. The display is also a chance to promote the library’s culture, fashion, and community languages collections. She can’t express her excitement at seeing her idea become something tangible and hopes the display will increase people’s acceptance of different outfits and clothing practices. Clothes, apart from providing basic functions of covering and weather protection to the body, have a role in communication. “Clothes are also important in creating meaning and identity. There is a plethora of research that ethnic clothes have stigmas and stereotypes attached to them so this exhibition is a way to create people’s acceptance of diverse cultures,” she says. The Manawatu¯ Guardian observed plenty of shoppers interested in the dresses. One passerby commented on the “stunning material”, while for another the display revived memories of being a marriage celebrant. Cheema is grateful to the dress owners for trusting her with their taonga and to Te Manawa for lending the mannequins. City council community development manager Steph Velvin says it is important for people to see their culture represented in public spaces. Threads of Culture runs until August 10. It is opposite Columbus Coffee in The Plaza.