Auckland War Memorial Museum 2 Tāmaki Paenga Hira - Auckland War Memorial Museum Nichola Te Kiri Arrow Uniforms Fashion Uniforms Kahu Tāmaki

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Directors
    Fiona Blanchard, Michael Sousa
  • Ringatoi Matua / Design Director
    Nichola Te Kiri
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    Denise Cohen, Nicola Railton, Olivia Taouma
  • Kaitautoko / Contributors
    Arrow Uniforms - Des Ford, Fashion Uniforms - Chloe Sharplin

Teu le Vā (the Pacific Dimension) and He Korahi Māori (The Māori Dimension) are written into Tāmaki Paenga Hira - Auckland War Memorial Museum's mission. The Wardrobe Project has reimagined staff uniforms with these dimensions woven into the very fabric of the clothes our staff wear.

A brief was provided by the working group to artists and designers to pitch for a fabric design that would evoke our mission: "Tui tui hono tangata, whenua me te moana - connect people through stories of people, land and seas." The goal was to clothe our people in a design that would connect them to our kaupapa and the taonga we have in our care.

It was essential that the new wardrobe would be something our people would really want to wear. Throughout the process, the staff and volunteers who would be wearing the new garments were consulted about style, cut and fabric, their 'wants' and 'absolutely-do-not-wants'. It would be gender-neutral, too, so wearers could choose garments that made them feel good and comfortable without having to navigate outdated, gender-specific style and fit descriptions.

In developing a pattern connected to our collections, taonga were selected by our Human History and Māori & Pacific Development teams: a korowai cloak, a manulua, a piece of tapa cloth and an artefact featuring the patikitiki pattern. These taonga were chosen for their representation of manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga: protection, knowledge, hospitality, and generosity.

Nichola Te Kiri studied the kaupapa and design elements of the collection objects, devising the tohu (design) dominated by triangular bird’s wings (a reference to Rongo) and diamond shapes (embodying protection and shelter). The shape of the bird wings also point to the three-part natural world paradigm of Te Kore (the void), Te Pō (the darkness), and Te Ao Mārama (the world of light). Like the objects that inform them, the motifs in the fabric are also layered: when the bird wing form is flipped it transfigures the manu (bird) into a maunga (mountain), which in turn references the organisations' location atop the hill Pukekawa, and also the view of the wider Tāmaki region ringed as it is by mountains.

"The palette of blues, browns and greens represent connection to the land, connection to the sky, and connection to the sea." Further conversations with an artist of Ngāti Whatua o Ōrākei whakapapa connected design elements specifically to Tāmaki Makaurau. The featured patiki (flounder) motif references the abundance of fish milling around the original foreshore that formerly lapped right up to the foot of the present-day Domain.

Nearly every element of the new wardrobe has been made, proudly, in Aotearoa. The fabric design was born in the Nichola's studio in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton), printed in Tauranga, cut, and sewn at Fashion Uniforms in Papakura, with finishing touches applied at Arrow Uniforms in Wellington.