Auckland Museum: “Kahu Tāmaki’” come to life with help from Arrow Uniforms
Auckland War Memorial Museum is dedicated to telling the story of New Zealand, its place in the pacific and its people. With pre-eminent Māori and Pacific collections, significant natural history resources, major social and military history collections, and with an extensive decorative arts and pictorial collection, Auckland Museum speaks to New Zealand’s rich history and heritage.
Auckland Museum needed a uniform to reflect their community presence and connection to the taonga in the museum. The journey resulted in a nearly three-year process from concept to design – “Kahu Tāmaki’”. The resulting uniform designs were a finalist in the Designers Institute of New Zealand Best Design Awards 2021, and the Professional Clothing Industry Association Worldwide Awards 2021.
The uniform would need to fit the diverse team of Volunteer guides and Visitor Hosts that represented the museum daily. That is no small task, so a Museum Working group was formed and led by Fiona Blanchard and Michael Sousa, to reimagine what the new uniform will look like. The goal of the new wardrobe was to clothe the visitor hosts and visitor guides in a design with a story; something that would connect them to the Kaupapa of Tāmaki Paenga Hira (Auckland War Memorial Museum) and the taonga in its care.
The working group created a design brief in the search for local designers and artists. Local indigenous artist Nichola Te Kiri won the brief with her fantastic designs inspired by her own heritage The decision was made to go with Nichola Te Kiri’s design using the Museums’ taonga as inspiration and incorporating the sky, mountains, flounder and stone. Items from Fiji, Tonga, and Aotearoa were stylistically referenced for shapes, patterns and colours. All these beautiful natural features informed the motifs of the fabric – the manu (birds), maunga (mountain, which references the Museum's scenic location), and the diamond shapes that traditionally symbolise shelter and protection.
The proposed design had to be something that the staff wanted to wear and so they were consulted on the design at every stage from initial concepts all the way through to wearer trials. People were the centre of the redesign, which is a good idea to ensure staff fall in love with what they wear every day. The garments were notably largely adaptable for different bodies and genders so that all staff members could feel comfortable while wearing it.
Auckland Museum approached Arrow Uniforms in partnership with Fashion Uniforms to develop a selection of garments that best represent Auckland Museum. Together with Nichola Te Kiri, the team created a unique garment collection to be treasured.
As well as the stunning, one of the kind designs of the uniforms, Auckland Museum showcases that it's not impossible to have a beautiful uniform that is also New Zealand made. Every single step – from designers, to printing, cutting and sewing, was completed here in New Zealand. Nichola Te Kiri says, “[the finished piece] Is really about connection, relationships, and collaboration.” “This is a collaboration,” Nichola says. “I really don’t feel that I won it. It’s myself, but also the digital fabric designers, the machinists –we’ve all had a part to play in it. High five, team! We did this.”
While Auckland Museum is currently closed due to the COVID-19 restrictions in Auckland, you can be sure that when the institution reopens, the museum’s public-facing people “will be there to greet our visitors, proudly dressed in a wardrobe that reflects our unique identity at Tāmaki Paenga Hira,” (Catherine Smith, Auckland Museum).
If you would like to talk to us about designing a bespoke uniform for your business, you can contact us. We would be delighted to help make your brand and people come to life.
View the video HERE
Photography/Videography - Jennifer Carol & Richard Ng