Nichola Te Kiri chosen to design new staff wardrobe at Auckland Museum

By Jessica Tyson

Nichola Te Kiri has been chosen as the designer of the new uniforms for staff at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Te Kiri was approached by the museum to design the print part of their Wardrobe Project, revamping their front-of-house visitor host uniforms to allow staff to feel more connected with their workplace.

“They asked me to reference some taonga from the museum so I had to reference some items from Fiji, Tonga, here in Aotearoa, and combine those into this and, from that, I drew shapes, patterns, and colours,” she says.

One of the designs of the new uniform for staff at the Auckland War Memorial Museum / Source: File

Te Kiri, of Tuhoe descent, is the founder of Contemporary Māori designs from Aotearoa. From humble beginnings of polymer clay and bead earrings to mixed media pieces, Te Kiri has evolved her designs and mediums to push boundaries and raise expectations.

The storytelling process of her work is important to her and every design she creates has a journey from inspiration to creation.

“What I do is I look at where I can draw shapes and styles to tell us a narrative, a kōrero, a story about the actual print and the overall design,” she says.

Nichola Te Kiri admiring her designs / Source: File

Museum kaiwhakahaere of Tikanga-a-Tangata (Director of People and Organisation) Catherine Smith says the symbolism and meaning in Te Kiri’s designs showed a depth of connection to the unique place in Tāmaki Makaurau.

“Nichola’s design stood out for its incorporation of our Māori and Pacific collections… Nichola has done an amazing job of reflecting these connections and our unique identity inspired by our world-renowned Māori and Pacific collections.”

Smith says it’s important for the museum and its people to reflect their unique identity. 

“As kaitiaki responsible for caring for more than 4.5 million treasures, we hold the DNA of Auckland. We want our teams to be proud of the uniform/wardrobe they wear and we want to ensure it complements and reflects our world-renowned Māori and Pacific collections."

Te Kiri’s designs showed a depth of connection to the unique place in Tāmaki Makaurau / Source: File

Te Kiri and the Auckland War Memorial Museum are working with New Zealand based companies Arrow Uniforms, Fashion Uniforms and the Parisian Neckwear Company to produce the uniforms.

The wardrobe will be ready for staff to wear from December 3 at the re-opening of the atrium.

“When our transformed atrium reopens to the public our public-facing people will be there to greet our visitors, proudly dressed in a wardrobe that reflects our unique identity at Tāmaki Paenga Hira,” Smith says.