Designer Nichola Te Kiri. Image by Te Rawhitiroa.
Designer Nichola Te Kiri founded her contemporary, eponymous Māori design label a decade ago and it is the perfect outlet for her creativity. Through her Nichola label she designs kākahu (clothing), whakakai (jewellery), nga rama (lamps) and mahi toi (artworks) which she sells through her Hamilton store, online and via stockists around NZ. Nichola incorporates Māori symbols and stories into her creations which express her heritage and the environment around her. Her unique designs have graced the runway in the Miromoda show at New Zealand Fashion Week and at Hong Kong Fashion Week.
We caught up with Nichola to find out more about her brand, what inspires her and what you would never catch her wearing!
Tell us about your latest collection?
I’m currently working on a body of work based around my brand values called ‘Ngā Uara’. I have seven core values, Rawe (excellence), Mana (pride and integrity), Whakawhanaungatanga (relationships), Manaakitanga (caring for one another), Auahatanga (creativity and innovation), Hāututanga (leadership) and Tino Rangatiratanga (sovereignty). I’ve created tohu (symbols) that represent these values which I’ve turned into patterns that adorn my garments.
What made you become a designer?
I’ve been creative all my life, art and design were my best and favourite subjects at school. I’ve pretty much followed that passion (I looooooove to create), it has lead me to many different fields of design, e.g. Graphic, spatial, sculpture, three dimensional, fabric, fashion, jewellery, lighting and event design. These have filled my kete of knowledge with many different tools and skills, which I now carry with me always.
Slouch dress by Nichola modeled by Arby.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by so much, currently its fleshing out my brand values, what does it mean? What does that look like? Etc. But I also really love to create based on our environment, Te Ao Māori and all the narratives we have, my journey through life and different indigenous/ethnic cultures. I use Pinterest to create mood boards that also help with my inspiration… I absolutely love that app!
Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
My personal style is about comfort, confidence and accessorising (love accessories, jewellery, jackets, shoes and bags). I often have basic shapes, colours and styles of clothing in my wardrobe with pops of colour. I create my base (simple dress, top and/or pants) then either add colour or accessories to make what I’m wearing stand out and pop.
What is your all-time favourite purchase?
It’s a white double breasted denim jacket made by Mooks (a street brand). I worked hard at my after school job and saved up for about two months to buy that jacket, to wear to my school ball! I love that jacket so much, I still have it in fact lol. It sits in the back of my wardrobe and is the only clothing item I’ve kept for over 25 years. It reminds me that hard work pays off.
What wardrobe item should everyone invest in?
An amazing jacket that makes you feel like a million bucks when you wear it.
Do you have a style rule you always obey?
I always wear something that makes me feel comfortable and confident.
Current looks by Nichola modeled by Hazel (left) and Arby (right).
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I have so many! But if I were to chose one, the most recent one for me would be my trip to China with Kiri Nathan and the Kāhui Collective. That was an amazing experience and I just loved all that we did, saw and learnt.
What can’t you live without?
Finish this sentence – You would never catch me wearing… an item of clothing that is more expensive than my house. I would be to scared to move in it or damage it!
Images by Te Rawhitiroa.