Skip to main content

In a first for New Zealand, six Māori and Pacific fashion designers and artists are traveling together to Hong Kong for Fashion Week to showcase their collections and meet with buyers and investors.

The group includes some of New Zealand’s best established and emerging Māori and Pacific creative talent including Kiri Nathan, Shona Tawhiao, Lindah Lepou, Nichola Te Kiri, Bobby Campbell-Luke and Mitchell Vincent. 

The trip has been funded by the North Asia Centre for Asia Pacific Excellence (North Asia CAPE) as part of their work in developing commercial opportunities and export capability for Māori and Pacific enterprise in creative industries. The North Asia CAPE is hosted by the University of Auckland.

University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor, Strategic Engagement, Professor Jenny Dixon says she “is pleased that the CAPE is taking leadership in developing export pathways for Māori and Pacific creative talent and understands the importance of diversity of representation to the Aotearoa brand in the export market.”

Film maker Benji Timu of No Six will accompany the designers to document the journey.  Timu says he is ‘excited to tell the story of local creatives showcasing their talents in a global market’.  North Asia CAPE programme delivery partner, Oyster Workshop has been working with the group in the lead up to Hong Kong Fashion week and a team from Oyster will also be traveling to Hong Kong to support all aspects of the programme and ensure market pathway opportunities are secured.

Tania Rupupera, Oyster Workshop’s Chief Coach has been working closely with the designers in preparing for their showcase and is excited to see the opportunities that will be created in Hong Kong.  Rupapera says that “this project aligns perfectly with the Oyster Workshop kaupapa and that a safe hands approach to growing our creative economy will have huge benefit to our designers and artist’s sustainability into the future.”

The designers kick off their trip to Hong Kong with the Lumiere Fashion Show on 6 July and have a full schedule of buyer and investor engagements as well as exploring e-commerce platforms, and distribution and supply chain logistics. David Whitwam, Chair of the New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong is providing on the ground support for the group so that they are able to maximise commercial opportunities during their visit.  

North Asia CAPE Director, Professor Paul Clark says “Creative industries are where New Zealanders can build high-value products that appeal to the world.  We are pleased to add this dimension to the work the North Asia CAPE is doing with expanding Māori and Pasifika opportunities in Asia”

The Artists/Designers

Shona Tawhiao 

Artist and designer Shona Tawhiao (Ngai Te Rangi, Whakatōhea, Te Whanau Āpanui) has made and exhibited her distinct style of raranga woven work for 25 years (see picture).  Having trained in traditional Māori raranga weaving techniques and methods, by the renowned weaver, Digress Te Kanawa, Tawhiao’s talent has been described as exquisite and undeniable.

The fusing of her love of fashion with her specialised techniques has enabled Tawhiao to create Haute Couture from flax fibre known to Māori as harakeke. This has resulted in her unique style being dubbed “Harakeke Couture”.

Tawhiao’s award-winning collections of Harakeke Couture have been presented at New Zealand Fashion Week since 2010 and resulted in winning the Villa Maria Estate Cult Couture premier award in 2007, 2010 and 2013. 

Tawhiao has exhibited her works internationally at MaMo Arts Festival in Honolulu, Chapel St Roch in Paris and in London at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich to an international group of museum curators.  Tawhiao has also become a regular at the Indigenous Fashion Unearthed showcase in Melbourne since 2013.

Tawhiao leant her creative influence to films such as the Māori Merchant of Venice and River Queen and in 2012 designed costumes for ‘The Māori Troilus and Cressida’ that opened
Shakespeare’s Olympics at The Globe Theatre in London to rave reviews. This led to her being nominated and winning the Brancott Estate ‘Best Costume Designer of the Year’ at The Chapman Tripp Theatre awards in Wellington New Zealand.

Lindah Lepou

As a multi-dimensional artist Lindah Lepou has made her mark as a designer by drawing directly from her Samoan and European identity.

Coining the phrase ‘Pacific Couture’ early in her career, this term allowed Lepou to create a new visual language that celebrated and drew inspiration from the unique Pacific identity and story.  A story saturated with rich mythology, written and oral history, traditions, rituals, deities, nature, spirituality, and art practices found nowhere else in the world.  This phrase has since been used by many Pacific, Māori and Indigenous artists, helping them to communicate their own unique cultural identity and creativity.

Lepou’s work features traditional Samoan materials and techniques masterfully translated into contemporary designs.  In 2017, Lepou was the Matairangi Mahi Toi Pasifika artist in residence at New Zealand’s Government House in Wellington. 

Lepou’s high impact designs have featured on the runways throughout the Pacific and Europe and designs commissioned for both stage and screen.  Lepou has several designs featured in the permanent collection at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand.  Te Papa also commissioned a wedding ensemble for the exhibition Unveiled: 200 Years of Wedding Fashion from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (16 December 2011 to 22 April 2012). Lepou named the wedding dress after her ancestor Siaposu‘isu‘i, which literally means ‘stitching tapa (bark cloth)’. It also pays homage to her late great-grandmother, Fa‘agase, who appeared making tapa in the film Moana: A Story of the South Seas (1926). 

Kiri Nathan

Launched in 2010, the Kiri Nathan label embodies identity and inclusivity.  Inspired by Aotearoa New Zealand and Te Ao Māori the company is built on tradition, culture, unique designs, integrity and a clear vision.  At the helm, Kiri Nathan (Ngapuhi and Tainui) led her label be the first New Zealand fashion label invited by the British Council & British Fashion Council to London Fashion Week International showcase.

On completing her Visual Arts Degree, Nathan returned to the marae where amongst elders she was taught traditional and contemporary Māori weaving techniques which have become important elements in her designs.  The Kiri Nathan label produces lifestyle and bespoke womenswear fashion, pounamu jewellery and contemporary handwoven kākahu (garments).

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern wears the Kiri Nathan brand.  The Duchess of Sussex, Michelle Obama and are a few of the more notable names that own a Kiri Nathan piece. Nathan has worked with Disney for the red carpet reveal of ‘Moana’ which led to the acquisition of a Kiri Nathan handwoven kākahu in the Walk Disney Museum as worn by the Voice of Moana Auli’I Cravalho at the London Premier of the movie.  By request of New Zealand Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy, Nathan wove two contemporary kākahu, utilised to cloak women in all future Dame investiture ceremonies.

Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa acquired thirteen Kiri Nathan pieces for the New Zealand National collection.

Nathan has shown at both New Zealand and Guangzhou China Fashion Weeks.

Bobby Luke

Campbell Luke was conceived by designer Bobby Luke in 2015 (tribal affiliations Ngāti Ruanui, Taranaki descent).  Subsequently Bobby’s partner Dominic Blake (tribal affiliations Ngati Kahungunu) joined the label.  Both Bobby and Dominic have a strong Kaupapa Māori work ethic built on a strong collaborative partnership.

Bobby is inspired by combining his fond early childhood memories with his unique design aesthetic to create his collections. He breathes life into his kākahu (garments), taking us on a journey of elegance, feminism and strength built on a foundation of centuries of tradition. The concept of ‘Rongo’ (deity of peace) which also traverses into the concept of Manākitanga (caring for, looking after) is part of the Campbell-Luke Identity. The Manākitanga aesthetic is centralised around memories of an era when the simplest of activities in domestic life, homewares and linens, delivered whānau (family) values, dignity and now nostalgia daily.

In his final year of a PHD, Bobby advocates for change to current social impacts of culture within fashion and fashion education. With a strong matriarchal upbringing Bobby strives to decolonise fashion aesthetics, to empower women’s individuality and to inspire creativity through sentimental design and articles of our past.

Nichola Te Kiri

Nichola Te Kiri (Tūhoe) is passionate about all facets of design. Her original, innovative and contemporary designs, artworks and solutions are driven by Te Ao Māori with splashes of Aotearoa flavours.  Te Kiri has studied whakairo (carving), contemporary Māori arts and raranga (weaving) as well as spatial design.  She brings all of these talents and skills to her fashion label.

Nichola Te Kiri incorporates Māori symbology into her designs and loves to tell stories of her whakapapa (genealogy) and culture.  Each Nichola Te Kiri taonga springs from Nichola’s rich Māori and Pakeha ancestry and weaves echoes of Māori mythology and legend and the natural environment to anchor it in the now. Each taonga of Nichola Te Kiri has a story, a story that will resonate with your story whoever you are, whatever your background to form a living taonga that will become part of you to inspire you on your journey. 

Te Kiri’s apparel collection was displayed at New Zealand Fashion Week In 2018, M+H (Mahuika + Hinepukohurangi) and was her avant-garde collection debut as part of the Miromoda show, alongside other talented Māori designers.  Te Kiri sees her work as not only something to wear, but something to treasure and journey with you and she designs with that in mind.

Mitchell Vincent

The Mitchell Vincent Collection is a ready to wear clothing label, self-titled after the designer.

Vincent draws his design inspiration from his Māori, British and Polynesian heritage and in particular family stories and New Zealand popular culture which he brings together to form a contemporary and minimal design aesthetic.   Through this approach Vincent seeks to ensure that his collections are inclusive, embodying contemporary silhouettes which are never intimidating.

Vincent won the title of ‘Emerging Designer’ at New Zealand Fashion Week in 2016 and has grown from strength to strength ever since. The Mitchell Vincent Collection further cemented Vincent’s place the New Zealand fashion industry as part of 2016’s New Generation show showcasing Vincent’s signature contemporary ready-to-wear style noting that shoelaces are always tied the ‘Mitchell Vincent way’.

The Mitchell Vincent Collection has also been featured on popular television shows, red carpets, and has been worn by some of Australasia’s favourite celebrities. Created in limited runs to maintain exclusivity, interest in the brand is rapidly growing.


About the North Asia Centre for Asia Pacific Excellence

The North Asia Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence is funded by NZ government through the Tertiary Education Commission and exists to assist New Zealand build sustainable, future-focused trade relationships with Greater China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), Japan, and Korea. The CAPEs are a university-led initiative supported by a consortium of New Zealand’s leading tertiary institutions: the University of Auckland, the University of Waikato, the University of Otago, and Victoria University of Wellington. The universities have deep expertise in business, language, culture, history and politics in the Asia-Pacific region. Together they offer strategic linkage between academic research and business-focused expertise. The North Asia CAPE, which focuses on Greater China, Japan, and Korea, is hosted by the University of Auckland.


Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


Dishing up export possibilities

Exporter Today Editorial TeamExporter Today Editorial TeamApril 16, 2012

What’s mine is not yours

Exporter Today Editorial TeamExporter Today Editorial TeamApril 16, 2012

25 countries… and counting

Exporter Today Editorial TeamExporter Today Editorial TeamApril 16, 2012