Designer Kiri Nathan has launched three beautiful new collections. Image by David K Shields.
Kiri Nathan has had a very busy 2021, and we’re not just talking about the designer’s three new collections that she released online just before Christmas. Kiri has been studying a year-long full immersion te reo Māori me tikanga Māori course at Te wānanga Takiura o Aotearoa which she began at the start of the year with her eldest son Astley Nathan. She also ran another cohort of her successful Kāhui Collective Mentorship Programme this year, worked in governance roles, made a television appearance in The Apprentice Aotearoa, ran her businesses and of course, raised her whānau with her husband Jason Nathan, but it was not that straightforward.
“I thought I would be able to do the course and by pushing a little harder still run the businesses, deliver the Kāhui Collective Mentorship Programme and fulfil my governance roles… but I was completely mistaken!” says Kiri Nathan. “The course was so intense and I personally found it really challenging for lots of reasons, therefore we had to make some pretty full on pivots and resets. My husband Jason had to quit his job and came to work in our business full time for the first time since we launched in 2010! So that was a wonderful pivot for our whole whānau and business.”
The course turned out to be a true blessing for Kiri, and an experience she remains thankful for, “I feel so grateful for having been able to take the year, and immerse myself in te ao Māori with Astley and all the other incredible humans I met studying, it’s such a privilege that so many of us for whatever reason can’t experience. I honestly felt the mamae (pain) of the loss of our language not only for myself and our whānau but for everyone that’s grown up without and is still trying to reclaim. There are years of learning te reo Māori ahead for me, and I’m excited about that even though I’ve spent a year in a classroom feeling like the dumbest person in the room. It’s been a welcome change to wake up everyday since finishing the course and do something I know how to do! Super excited to be creating again. 2021 has been a year of challenge, pivot, learning and healing, for many it has been survival mode I’m just so bloody grateful for all the good and for all the lessons.”
While she initially decided there was going to be no new collections for the Kiri Nathan brand this year, the designer found great joy in recently returning to her beloved mahi and the result is three gorgeous new collections; a fashion collection, a plus size fashion collection and a bag collection in collaboration with a social enterprise in the Philippines.
Qiane Matata-Sipu modelling a look from Kiri Nathan’s Āio rerehua collection.
Āio is the name of Kiri’s latest collection in the brand’s standard range of sizing which offers stunning designs made from 100% linen and silk. The beautifully draped pieces in Kiri’s signature languid style offer easy versatility to the wearer and are suitably comfortable to wear. As with all Kiri’s clothing, every piece is impeccably crafted in Aotearoa in limited numbers so the wearer is getting something truly special that is designed to be treasured.
Next up is Āio rerehua, Kiri Nathan’s plus size collection, created for sizes 16 – 24. It’s the first time the designer has specifically created a collection with more voluptuous shapes in mind and the result is a wonderful continuation of Kiri’s signature style. The collection came about when one of Kiri’s best friends and NUKU founder, Qiane Matata- Sipu, spoke at Kiri’s Kāhui Wānanga and ended her kōrero by sending a wero (challenge) out to the designers in the room to make something for her body. It was a challenge Kiri herself enjoyed and the resulting range is even modelled by Qiane, with the collection images captured by another of Kiri’s long time friends and collaborator David K Shields, and beauty done by Jemma Barclay.
The third collection released is the bag collection named Terapēke which came about when Kiri was introduced to social enterprise R2R by Asia NZ Foundation, “ANZF had worked with Reese from R2R and myself on separate projects previously and Reese had asked if we could meet and discuss a potential collaboration,” says Kiri. “After seeing the amazing work they do in the Phillipines and learning about their indigenous cultures and weaving traditions, it was such an organic and immediate connection. We have been developing these three styles of bag/clutch since February this year.”
The collaboration resulted in three elegant bags, with the materials used in each bag intentionally selected for endurance and every piece is handcrafted by artisans from the Philippines. Filipino artisan weavers have shared their traditional knowledge and skills to hand weave the panels on each bag with the design in the panels developed by R2R and Kiri Nathan to represent both Filipino and Māori cultures.
Created in black leather with handwoven panels, the triangular designs represent maunga (mountains) as a reference to the lands each brand belongs to and the peaks from which they connect to each other over oceans. It’s a fantastic example of of how cultures can come together, be creative, consider people and planet in the process of producing beautiful handcrafted pieces that hold so much meaning and story. Each business is also wāhine-led which makes the collaboration that much more powerful.
With such a huge amount of mahi in 2021, Kiri Nathan is having a well earned break over the summer, and these new collections are perfectly timed for her customers to enjoy wearing them this summer too.
Images by David K Shields.