Kiri Nathan showcases Fiji and unique graduation gowns to fashion world

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Māori fashion designer Kiri Nathan (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Hauā) has been busy, both on the catwalk in the Pacific and in the United States.

Nathan had showcased her garments during Fiji Fashion Week in the island nation and then flew to Denver, Colorado as an ambassador for Education New Zealand at the world’s largest education conference.

The jet-setting fashion designer says Fiji Fashion Week was an opportunity to see some up-and-coming indigenous designers.

“And I’ve been working on Education New Zealand re-imagining how our Aotearoa, New Zealand graduation garment may look for about five months now.”

Nathan says what impacted her most about her venture in Fiji was that the models had never before walked on a runway.

“They hadn't had any formal training, there are no established modelling agencies based in Fiji, and I was absolutely blown away not only by their work ethic but by their natural ability.”

The reception from Fijian audiences to her designs was wonderful and she thinks “it happens when you’re showing garments and an aesthetic that is based on a cultural narrative in a place that is so culturally rich.”

Nathan says she was approached by a group to pull a design team together to develop a new graduation gown, which led to her travel to the US.

“Something that really reflected our country, our indigenous culture and really thought about the experience of the international student.

“What we ended up doing was sampling eight kākahu hou and eight international students who are studying in New Zealand, and it was just a really wonderful experience to work with them.”