by Kiri Nathan



2010 Jason and I were living in a 2brm rental, we had 5 children, four of which were still living at home.  The 3 youngest children were under 3 1/2yrs, our baby Kaiawa only a few months old... Jason was on night shift at a job that just covered our bills and we decided I would start a small business in the middle of a recession, in a crippled industry....FASHION!!


two bedroom rental Weaving with 1yr old Kaiawa

Jason on night shift for the first year of Kaiawa’s life, 2 toddlers and starting a business was challenging.... I felt like a solo mother much of the time...very alone, exhausted and not too sure which direction I should take the business in... I was so green, I didn't know anyone in the industry or anything about business...having no capital was a challenge for us as it is for most start-ups, I also hit an industry that labelled me either a MAORI DESIGNER or a COMPETITION DESIGNER, a mother of 5?? Gowns??? Slow fashion??? they never saw me as a legitimate business and probably still don’t!! I owned those labels with pride, being Maori and having won many fashion competitions for creating garments that were innovative and outside the box gave me an edge, I embraced every bit of my diversity.

Handwoven Bodices                Handwoven sillk and Pounamu Neckpiece

I was the opposite of what the NZ FASHION INDUSTRY considered relevant, fresh and dare I say it cool!! Established labels told stockists they would pull their label if they stocked me, industry hierarchy literally laughed in my face when I told them what I wanted to achieve SO IT WAS SAFE TO SAY THE ODDS WERE STACKED AGAINST US!!....

In the face of this I lent on my very stubborn and determined streak.. I don't like to be told I can't do something, I hate bullies and I HAD A FAMILY THAT NEEDED ME TO SUCCEED...

Nathan Whanau 2012

I entered and won quite a few competitions over this first few years, various sections in Cult Couture, Style Pasifika, NZ Bridal Fashion Week, Miromoda, showed at Nz Fashion Week and also won the Supreme Award at Style Pasifika. I used these wins to leverage profile. I also attended a few business courses and upskilled.      

winning garments Cult Couture Winning Garment NZ Bridal Fashion Week  Supreme Winning Garment Style Pasifika

2011 saw the labels first collection and launch at ALBERTON HOUSE Auckland. I had met some beautiful, talented people on this journey, they really championed the work and could see potential...David K Shields, Rachael & Grant of Black behind us and have been there since the beginning.  I have always believed in the label but it never hurts to have that confirmed by some of NZ's best!!

Rachael Churchward, Grant Fell and I

Then I met MIKA... He literally slapped me in the face with his take the world by storm attitude to life and work! I spent 6mths working on his Aroha Mardi Gras Event during the RUGBY WORLD CUP 2011.

Kiri Nathan Showing Aroha Mardi Gras

It was an insane, creative, learning period... I went from making a few signature pieces for Mika to creating all of his costuming, dressing the main cast Keisha Castle Hughes & Rena Owen to name a few as well as styling the entire show and cast of over 600 people....          

MIKA wearing Kiri Nathan and Issey Miyake  Kiesha Castle Hughes wearing Kiri Nathan

I did everything from physically dressing Mika to holding the wind machine for optimal costume performance.  I also held my own exclusive fashion show with 100 VIP guests to prelude the main event.  At this stage of the business I was the sole designer, pattern drafter and machinist.  Most of the pieces I created for this show were hand woven and hand sewn, it really was creativity outside the box I loved it!

Set up for Kiri Nathan Show Britomart Mika Aroha Mardi Gras

I had initially met Phoenix Renata of Phoenix Cosmetics when I cold called her to do the make up for my first launch at Alberton House... She is super talented and a driven businesswoman. I then asked her to do the make up for Aroha Mardi Gras... After seeing my gowns and the show, she asked where I was going with my business-what next?? I told her I didn't know? I was lost as to what I really needed to do next? She suggested I talk to Annah Stretton and facilitated an online introduction....    

2012 Annah and I initially talked on the phone, this led to a meeting at one of her 30 stores where she asked to see some of the key pieces from my label..

Annah Stretton and I  Kiri Nathan for Annah Stretton GownAnnah's advice made total sense to me at the time and I loved her black and white approach to business.  I won the formal and bridal sections in Cult Couture on the same weekend Annah and I met she attended the show and followed up with an email the next day saying she had a few ideas she would like me to look at.  She proposed that I design 10 gowns under a collaborative label called KIRI NATHAN FOR ANNAH STRETTON.. She would pay me for each of the designs and pay for the production of the line...I would then receive a percentage of the sales.  As well as this she knew I was working from home, so she offered me a space above her Ponsonby store where I could set up a workroom.

This was an absolute no brainer!! I am still so grateful to Annah for this opportunity... I then spent the next 6mths driving 3hrs daily to Morrinsville and back to design and develop the collaborative label... It was a massive and much needed up skill!! Again another lesson I will always be grateful for!!.. The later part of the year I spent launching the collaborative label at events.

Kiri Nathan collection for London Fashion Week Showcase

I also designed the 2nd collection for my label Kiri Nathan and launched at Pah Homestead.  I had met VICKI TREADELL BRITISH HIGH COMMISSIONER TO NZ during rugby world cup.  She took an interest in the label straight away and became a wonderful support!  At the launch she announced her intention with the support of THE BRITISH COUNCIL to send us to LONDON FASHION WEEK to showcase!!.. The evening was a huge success attended by some of Nz's fashion high rollers and industry greats..

Vikki Treadell BHCNZ and I at my launch 2012

This was massive!! the support from both VICKI TREADELL and the BRITISH COUNCIL will always be held as one of my greatest breakthrough moments and valued relationships.

Before heading to London I asked Annah if she would be interested in stocking my label.  For the first time in 20yrs of business Annah opened her retail environment to another fashion label... I felt privileged and excited about getting the label to market...Annah was also heading to the 2nd largest fabric market in the world in Guangzhou China.. I got my airfare together and asked if I might tag along?... It was incredible to see where the world goes to buy their fabrics!!.. the scale was really mind blowing.

Flying up to London with Jason was such an awesome experience, we were so lucky to have Jasons mum Vicki and niece Savania at home to look after the kids as both of us were pretty much beside ourselves at the thought of going without them.  We were also really lucky to have Jason's sister and our brother in law based up in London to show us the ropes! 

London Fashion Week  Jas and I on the balcony at the NZ High Commission


The New Zealand High Commission offered us the penthouse with its spectacular 360 view of London City to showcase.  London Fashion Week was incredible! We were so grateful to the British Council NZ and The British Fashion Council.  A great inspiration to be around, insane shows and many wonderful people met.

Kiri Nathan from the collection London Fashion Week Showcase  Kiri Nathan collection for London Fashion Week Showcase

2013 On returning to NZ I was approached by the SIR MICHAEL HILL VIOLIN COMPETITION to be one of the competitions sponsors.... This is one of the largest competitions of its kind in the world and is a credit to SIR MICHAEL AND LADY CHRISTINE HILL It is a wonderful privilege and experience..... 

Sir Michael Hill Lady Christine Hill and the winner of the MHVC Nikki Chooi

Jason  also commissioned a pounamu for WILL I AM at this time. it's crazy seeing people of this international calibre wearing your work!!...

WILL I AM wearing Kiri Nathan Pounamu - carved by Jason Nathan

Half way through 2013 Annah approached me to co- produce both of her NZFW shows with Phoenix Renata... Annah Stretton NZFW 2013 was the most successful showing Annah has had at NZFW, the industry, media and critics loved it!! It took 5 months to pull it all together, but I was so happy for her. It felt great to actually be able to give back to her! 

Meeting BEYONCE was insanely surreal...the most influential woman in the world and at the same time in what was a very brief but impactful meeting she displayed all the attributes of a truly beautiful human being, woman and mother... 


I didn't realise until the day after Beyonce left our shores, that nz media or nz in general had been given zero contact with her?.. We were blessed, THE UNIVERSE AND SOCIAL MEDIA CAME TOGETHER TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN - see meeting beyonce blog

 The Taonga we gifted Beyonce

I truly believe the way you treat others will be what is returned to you in life... I always try and treat people with respect and care...we go out of our way to help people whenever we can manage it... And this is always returned to us through the friendships and relationships we have surrounding us...
On those occasions where people have mistreated myself or my whanau.... I distance myself from them and let Karma take care of their outcomes... I never forget!! ....I just don't believe in wasting time and energy on those types of humans….

The Kids and I 2012

2014 took a while for me to regroup after missing a season due to Annah’s fashion week showing.  I was still a sole operator, so was still designing, pattern drafting, cutting, sewing, marketing, selling, social media, networking etc myself...  

My market and client was very different from Annah's so the mutual decision to take my label out of her stores was made. Sourcing stockists that sit more in line with my label and generating fresh and exciting ways of getting to market was the drive for the business at that time.  Our online presence and more personalised service for the luxury end of the market took on a life of its own!

Since meeting DAVID K SHIELDS nz photography royalty!!.. He has not only shot every one of my collections and launches but he has become a member of our whanau (family)... He is the most delectable person to work with and we love him dearly.

Crew on location HKA


David and I on location HKA

David, Jason, our eldest son Astley and myself have been working on a project called 'HE KAAKANO AHAU’ since 2010... A photographic journey capturing Maori of today in New Zealand landscapes. WE ARE CELEBRATING THE STRENGTH, BEAUTY AND PRIDE OF OUR PEOPLE TODAY. Each of the incredible individuals we have been honoured to meet and photograph wear Jason's Pounamu and my Weaving... Our son Astley has documented ‘He Kaakano Ahau’ in all its beauty and storytelling...It is a stunning body of work that has led us on a journey of discovery about ourselves and some of the most beautiful people we have ever met...THIS IS SOUL FOOD AT IT’S BEST!!

Mikaara for HKA Eden for HKA

TARA LORIGAN founder of Company of women has been an absolute treasure.  She has consistently put me in front of globally successful business women and championed the label.  Listening to the experiences of other women in business, their successes, failures and how they overcome challenges has had a phenomenal effect on my thought process around business.

Tara Lorigan founder and CEO Company of Women

I have a quote on my workroom wall - It is my mantra!... 

“Entrepreneurship is about living a few years of your life like most won't, so you can live the rest of your life like most can't”  

Hall of fame inductee's and I


Sharon Hunter Founder PC Direct, Myself, Anita Finnigan founder and CEO of Best Pacific Institute of Education and Anne Norman Owner of the James Pascoe Group

This four year story is only a fraction of my life story with Jason...Knowing he always has my back is an incredible base for personal confidence. Jason is my harshest critic and most loyal supporter, he is the muscle behind packing in and out of every event we have ever been involved in, the “Tim the Toolman/Maori ingenuity guy”behind every weaving rack, lighting system and audio set you name it!! HE IS SUCH A TALENTED ARTIST AND CREATIVE IN HIS OWN RIGHT and most of all he is the most beautiful papa and the love of my life! 


Jason and I living, working growing together is such a valuable relationship on all levels, there is no limit to the unique creativity that can be achieved when a carver, a weaver and a fashion designer bring all their skill bases together. Crazy ideas and mistakes that lead to discoveries are just part of the design process for us and nothing is disregarded, the more we can push ourselves and each other the better. Insane ideas are the norm! Through these four years as much as the label has dominated so much of our time THE KID'S AND OUR FAMILY ENVIRONMENT ARE MINE AND JASON'S UPMOST PRIORITY. The house is loud! full on! Packed with personality and we wouldn't have it any other way!!.. The success of the label is driven by the vision of seeing all of our children comfortable and happy in life...with options and support spiritually, mentally and financially.... 

We are very conscious of giving back, I've spent hours and hours with people of all ages and backgrounds sharing and nurturing their journeys.  We have gifted and supported many charities for Cancer, Child welfare and Diabetes.  Our most vulnerable should always be supported by New Zealand businesses.

There are so many other inter twining stories and people that tell the first four years of our business ...none of which would have been possible without the LOVE AND SUPPORT OF OUR FRIENDS AND WHANAU... Thank god for my mother in law Vicky, niece Savania and our eldest children Astley and Ahmardia for all their help over the years with the little kids!!.. 

We make decisions daily that challenge our sensibility and creativity in business and in life.  There have been too many sacrifices to mention, too many all-nighters, soooo many challenges and times when we have asked ourselves if were actually being irresponsible parents by not following the conventional channels for income and security.  But we have NEVER given up on the dream. Perseverance is key, an opportunity always presents itself and we pull through.

We still have many lessons to learn and many more challenges to overcome to reach the goal of a global brand that is instantly personified by its reputation for quality and innovation. There is still so much to achieve in building a brand that identifies to New Zealand but can be appreciated by the world.   But as it was in the very beginning.


Thank you to those who have consistently championed our mahi and stood by us and what we believe in... 

David K Shields, John Kite, Vicki Treadell, Poutama Trust, Creative NZ, The British Council NZ, Stacey Morrison, Scotty Morrison, Miriama Kamo, MIKA, Annah Stretton, Tara Lorigan, Rachael Churchward, Grant Fell, Teresa Pao, Anne Moore, Czarina Wilson, Comapny of Women, Wynnis Armour, Maria Tutaia, Katherine Corrich, Lady Christine Hill, Sir Michael Hill, Anne Rodda, Alan and Barb Pimm, Yasmin Bidois.              

To all the sponsors who have believed enough to back us!!! Thank you so much! None of our events would have happened without you! 


2015-2016 STORY TO COME....