A Maori fable of mischievous fairies inspired Alaisa Peterson's wild design.
At 17, she is the youngest finalist in Style Pasifika, a national fashion competition being held in Auckland next month.
Ms Peterson, a first-year student at Palmerston North School of Design, went bush for inspiration.
After five days tramping and hunting in Taranaki's Waitotara Valley, she returned home with a rubbish bag of ideas, including bark, moss and flax.
She transformed her materials in to a wearable design based on Patu-Paiarehe – fairy creatures who live in the forest and lure people from safety with music from their flutes.
Ms Peterson was "shocked" to hear she made the finals.
"It's still hard to believe, but it will kick in when I get to Auckland."
Her passion for design ignited when she first used a sewing machine in year nine.
In a high-school environment she struggled academically, leading her to drop out at 15.
But since enrolling at School of Design last year she has worked tirelessly honing her skills and drawn praise from her teachers.
Tutor Debbie Watkins said many late nights went into her Pasifika outfit.
"She worked hard – she turned up on the day it was being sent [to judges] looking ragged."
But as soon as she put on her dress, she "morphed in to character", running up fire escapes and trees.
"She definitely deserved her place, I'll watch her career with interest."
School of Design managing director Mike Saywell said she was very focused and always works to a high standard.
"The potential for her in the future is extraordinary."
Ms Peterson hopes to study in Wellington or Auckland towards a design degree.
Manawatu designers Hannah Blackburn and Mary Estall join Ms Peterson as Style Pasifika finalists at Vector Arena in Auckland on September 3.
School of Design student Aroha Kawana was also commended for her Goddess of the Ocean design.
- Manawatu Standard
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