Kiri Nathan honoured for services to Māori and the fashion industry

By Jessica Tyson

Designer Kiri Nathan has been honoured as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to Māori and the fashion industry in the 2020 Queen's Honours List announced today.

Ten years ago Nathan founded the Kiri Nathan clothing label and has developed it into an internationally-acclaimed high-end fashion brand with a distinctly Māori essence and aesthetic.

Nathan’s label has contributed to upholding the values of Māoridom through her designs, including handwoven accessories, custom dresses, contemporary iterations of traditional korowai, kākahu and artwork.

Her husband Jason Nathan is the creator of the label's pounamu Jewellery and pounamu artwork. Together the couple have met and gifted pounamu and korowai to prominent figures including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Demi Lovato as well as Will.I.Am and Ed Sheeran.

Nathan’s work has also been exhibited around the world, including in fashion shows, Hollywood red-carpet events and the Walt Disney Museum.

Nathan recently established the Kāhui Collective, a group that fosters collaboration and knowledge-sharing to create a uniquely Māori fashion industry.

She has led several hīkoi to China from 2017 to 2019 to support 15 Māori fashion designers into global growth.

“It was just a couple of designers in need. I raised some pūtea 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,” says Nathan.

Kāhui Fashion Collective open high-end Māori fashion store / Te Ao, February 2020

Designers from the Kāhui Fashion Collection also showed at Guangzhou Fashion Week in 2019.

“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.”

Kāhui Fashion in China. Source: Kāhui Fashion

Other achievements:

The Kiri Nathan label is a member of the Wahine Toa Initiative, identifying and mentoring leadership in young Māori women.

She was a founding Board member of the I Have a Dream Foundation to help disadvantaged children achieve academic success, and is a member of the SUPERdiverse WOMEN advisory board.

Nathan was the Māori Business Collaboration Award and Supreme Award winner at the 2019 Māori Women’s Development Inc. Business Awards, and received a BLAKE Leader award in 2019.