Dr Bobby Luke has a knack for combining beautiful design with a heartfelt story and celebration of his culture that goes much deeper than surface level. The founder of fashion label Campbell Luke showed his new collection Oranga Ngākau at this year’s New Zealand Fashion Week Kahuria – and after his memorable 2019 NZFW debut that had most of the audience moved to tears, his 2023 show was highly anticipated.
With a poetic super 8 film by Bill Bycroft as backdrop, and a live performance by kapa haka group Hātea as soundtrack, models wore Luke’s signature frothy, flouncy dresses, tops, trousers and skirts – many crafted from repurposed materials that he inherited from family.
While Luke always draws on his life to create, this show was even more personal and poignant, as he has been dealing with immense grief since his brother passed away last year. He wanted Oranga Ngākau to be a celebration of life and love, and the show closed with Tipene Funerals director Kai-Ora Tipene walking onto the runway wearing Campbell Luke and a korowai by Diggeress Te Kanawa from Waikato Museum's collection. Tipene was holding her one-week-old baby, wrapped in Noa Blanket Co blankets.
Luke shared a few words with Broadsheet straight after his show.
It’s your second solo show at New Zealand Fashion Week. How did that feel this time versus last time, and how are you feeling now that it’s done?
It’s probably the same feeling, but just this time it was about acknowledging obviously my brother, and acknowledging the grief that I’ve been going through during that time, and this show was about ora – about life.
In the last scene, you saw Kai-Ora bring out her baby in this space of enlightenment. I know everyone was very emotional about it, and that’s something I think I do best, but it was just really about this concept of ora.
I’m feeling really good about it; it feels like it just went by so fast – which is usually the case. But I’m happy to say that I was really happy with it – there’s always something, but I’m feeling confident in what I’ve just shown.
In terms of the clothes themselves, I saw you’ve been working with some of your signature fabrics; talk me through the collection.
When I start the collections, I never disregard the last – so I always bring them forward.
There’s a couple of pieces I’ve reused to style into the show, and then I just try and make it better and that’s the process I go through. The same process with the materials I’ve always used – you probably saw them at the exhibition we did for Matariki last year – there were a few pieces that I reused in there, and it brings back this idea of the past coming back to the present to go back into the future.
That also talks to that form of sustainability, that things can be reused. The taonga that was given to fashion week yesterday, at Ōrākei, they were repurposed flax, and that speaks to that narrative as well.
If you had to sum up the show and collection in three words – probably quite hard but what would you say?
Life, celebration, love.