Kāhui Fashion Collective open high-end Māori fashion store

By Jessica Tyson

A group of top Māori designers under the Kāhui Fashion Collective have launched a pop-up store in Britomart, Auckland, "To prove that a collective of fashion designers can come to a collective," says founder Kiri Nathan.

The store in Britomart is selling a range of high-end kākahu, making it a first of its kind, says Nathan.

“This store is unique and different from others because it’s the first time we’ve had a department store for high-end Maori Fashion. There was nowhere to go before."

Kakahu and jewellery from six Māori designers including Kiri Nathan, Nichola Te Kiri, Campbell Luke, Adrienne Whitewood, J’AKE and Mitchell Vincent Collection are on sale.

“There’s a couple of reasons why we opened this store. Firstly, this is the first time that we’ve come together collaboratively in a retail environment,” Nathan says.  

“The other reason is obviously for us this is the best area for us to pop up in and test the market. This is where most of our tourism foot traffic comes with the cruise liners.”

Today the store open its doors for the first time. Nathan says shoppers have been curious about what the designers have to offer.

“Curiosity and conversation, korero, education around, pounamu, rāranga and the way that it's moved into contemporary form to kakahu.”

Miriama Kamo. Source/File

Television presenter and journalist Miriama Kamo was at the store today and purchased earrings by Nicola Te Kiri to wear at The New Zealander of the Year Awards tonight.

“They are so beautiful. She does the most incredible work,” Kamo says.

“When I buy these pieces I don’t think I’m just wearing a pair of pants, I feel like I’m wearing, I’m able to carry their legacy and the care and the passion they have brought into their mahi that they feel has been handed down to them by their tūpuna so that’s really special.”

Nathan founded the Kāhui Fashion Collective in 2017.

“It was just a couple of designers in need. I raised some putea and took them to China to introduce them to the fabric markets. What that has eventually led to over three years of a lot of mahi and a lot of conversations is the first Māori Fashion Coalition with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise so that’s the first in our history.”

Designers from the Kāhui Fashion Collection also showed at Guangzhou Fashion Week in 2019 and plan to appear in Shanghai Fashion Week in October this year.

“The challenge forever has been that there’s never been an example of how we can take beautifully crafted fashion that has been sourced from our culture and then sold with total respect to our culture not only in our own country but also to the world.”

The pop-up store will remain open until March 15 and there’s hope for it to one day become permanent.

“The Britomart group want to see this as a permanent residence so that’s a win,” Nathan concludes.