Once Were Warriors leather jacket & pants

The hugely successful feature film Once Were Warriors (Communicado, 1994), adapted from Alan Duff’s novel by Briar Grace-Smith, directed by Lee Tamahori and produced by Robin Scholes, is a hard-hitting social-realist drama about Māori poverty and despair in contemporary New Zealand. In spite of their brutal, anti-social behaviour, the young urban Māori in the film’s Toa gang are strikingly costumed in beautiful black leather gear, accessorised with glamorous piercings and tattoos. In response to the criticism that he had created a “designer” gang, Tamahori, in an interview with Helen Martin (The Big Picture, Issue 5, Winter 1995) explained the look of the gang was intended to reflect the sentiments of the title, and to convey the idea that, within their own structure, Māori gangs have a loyal and disciplined alternative whānau.

Read more about wearing the colour black in the New Zealand Fashion Museum publication Black: The history of black in fashion, society and culture in New Zealand.



Credit: Loan courtesy of the New Zealand Film Archive
Designer: Art direction by Shayne Radford
Material: Leather, steel mesh, metal studs, rubber, paint
Colour: Black
Date: 1994