Special Group 171 Kiri Nathan Te Kākahu Hou

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Directors
    Stu Mallarkey, Tony Bradbourne
  • Ringatoi Matua / Design Directors
    Heath Lowe, Arnya Karaitiana
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    Sarah Shepherd, Tom Johnson, Rory Gallery, Nick Salter, Jolene D’Souza, Hugo Parcell, Sam Hall, Kelly Grindle, Katie Mortensen, Liz Garneau
  • Kaitautoko / Contributors
    Kiri Nathan, Bobby Campbell-Luke, Jacinta Fitzgerald, Nina Van Lier, Christina Leef, Carol Shang, Leonard Hill, Te Orihau Karaitiana, Ryan Turner, Belinda Watt, Liz Farr, Steve Boniface, Cameron Jones, Hannah McOwan, Deirdre Crowley, Jake Munro, Jasmine St John, Conan Mornard-Stott, Sam Caino, Ben Cushman, Luke Ross, Gareth Evans, Pow Studios, Milk Bun
  • Client
    Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao

The graduation gown currently worn in New Zealand, and all over the world, is a symbol of education bound in history and tradition that dates back to over 900 years ago. The education world has evolved a lot since then – but what we wear to celebrate our educational achievements hasn’t caught up.

In a world first, Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao has brought tradition, innovation, and indigenous culture together to create Te Kākahu Hou – a new graduation gown.

Through a collaborative kaupapa between a design team lead by Kiri Nathan, members of our education community, and students from Whitecliffe School of Fashion & Sustainability, Te Kākahu Hou is a symbol of what sets the New Zealand education experience apart from every other education offering in the world.

The design reflects the connection to Te Ao Māori that defines our education experience through the key values of kaitiakitanga, te māui pōtiki, and manaakitanga.

Kaitiakitanga (our care for the environment)

The respect we have for nature informed the colour palette and materials used. The colourways use subtle notes of water and te tai ao (our natural environment). Colours we see in our rivers, deep oceans, and the river stones underfoot – shifting away from primary and bright colourways commonly adopted by traditional gowns.

Taking inspiration from the way our natural environment makes us feel, how it nurtures us, and how we care for it, Te Kākahu Hou is made using entirely sustainable materials. For the initial creations, this took the form of repurposed and naturally dyed commercial linen, circular New Zealand milled biodegradable wool, and deadstock fabrics. These light, breathable materials are also better suited to the warmer conditions in which graduation ceremonies take place in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Te Māui Pōtiki (our innovative spirit)

The innovative way of thinking that is inherent in our approach to learning is represented in the modern, asymmetrical form of Te Kākahu Hou. A hand-embroidered Poutama pattern symbolises the steps students take on their learning journey. The colour of this pattern can be customised to represent the recipient’s unique identity.

Manaakitanga (our welcoming nature)

A hand-woven scarf symbolises the coming together of cultures, identities, and different ways of thinking that make up our education community. By having a design system where no two kākahu are the same, they celebrate the individuality of our students.

The first eight personalised garments were made by students from Whitecliffe School of Fashion & Sustainability, and gifted to eight international students from China, Columbia, Germany, India, Japan, Thailand, USA, and Vietnam.

The design process and these international students’ stories featured as part of a global content campaign – spanning across digital and social channels, PR and events.

Education New Zealand believes Te Kākahu Hou has rich long-term possibilities, which will be explored and brought to life in the near future.