Kiri Nathan MNZM : Kia kaha me te pono!

BLK List by David K. Shields

01 June 2020

Kiri Nathan MNZM - 9th Celebration of Silk: Thai Silk Road to the World 2019 Festival


Ka ara ake tētahi

Ka ara ake te katoa

(One lifts, we all lift)


In what seems like a lifetime ago, Kiri Nathan MNZM and her eponymous fashion label were invited by Queen Sirikrit of Thailand to represent Aotearoa at her 9th Celebration of Silk in Bangkok, Thailand.

This event brought together artisans from 43 countries worldwide, highlighting the creativity exhibited by exponents worldwide using the fabric. Each designer  had been selected for their ability to showcase the now highly desired textile within the design aesthetic of the artisan.

This and the other nations’ selected work, was shown in Bangkok during the week of 18-22 November 2019 with a Grand Fashion Extravaganza on the 23rd Nov. being televised live across the country.

 Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the Queen Mother, well known as the “Queen of Silk” has spent the last sixty years tirelessly promoting silk farming and production and the revitalisation of traditional handwoven silk designs throughout the Kingdom of Thailand. 

For the last eight years, a project celebrating Thai silk has been organised in honour of the Queen Mother called “Celebration of Silk – Thai Silk Road to the World”. 2019 which showcases the 9th annual celebration to commemorate Her Majesty’s 87th birthday. Since 2010, the Thai Tourist Assistance Foundation, in collaboration with members of the foreign diplomatic corps in Bangkok, has organised the Celebration of Silk project to exhibit traditional and modern Thai silk and design. Through education and investment projects, Her Majesty has made a significant contribution with the boosting of the silk industry to the lives and livelihoods of many Thai people. In honour of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the Queen Mother, the project runs for an entire week with design seminars, university lectures, commercial displays and an extraordinary nationally televised fashion show each year.


 “The Silk project provides us the unique opportunity to encourage closeness of Thai culture with participating country’s culture through Thai silk fashion.


This investment in the future of those whose lives are tied to the production and utilisation of the fabric is both noble, and extremely important considering the globe’s incessant need for “more & cheaper”, with less thought than ever for the ecological and human aspects this production creates. It’s inherent growth from being a lesser desired item, to one of great value to the country’s economy and people, is something that is reflected in Kiri’s ambitions for her own native culture’s needs of support and kaitiakitanga (guardianship), and for those developing artisans she has taken under her wing, and with her on this journey. This innate sense of nurturing and belief in sustainably working with papatūānuku (Earth mother) to guard the environment for her future inhabitants is part of her being, and another of the many things we celebrate her for.


In short, her achievements thus far are exemplary, and as you’ll likely agree with us only the beginning  of the stellar journey of this outstanding New Zealander. She founded the Kiri Nathan clothing label in 2010 and has developed an internationally-acclaimed high-end fashion brand with a distinctly Māori essence and aesthetic.


Kiri Nathan’s label has contributed to upholding the values of Māoridom through her designs, including handwoven accessories, custom dresses, contemporary iterations of traditional korowai and kākahu, artwork, and pounamu jewellery. Her work has been exhibited around the world, including in fashion shows, Hollywood red-carpet events, and the Walt Disney Museum. The Kiri Nathan label is a member of the Wahine Toa Initiative, identifying and mentoring leadership in young Māori women. She established the Kāhui Collective, a group that fosters collaboration and knowledge-sharing to create a uniquely Māori fashion industry. She has led several hīkoi to China from 2017 to 2019 to support 15 Māori fashion designers into global growth. She was a founding Board member of the I Have a Dream Foundation to help disadvantaged children achieve academic success, and is a member of the SUPERdiverse WOMEN advisory board. Mrs Nathan was the Māori Business Collaboration Award and Supreme Award winner at the 2019 Māori Women’s Development Inc. Business Awards, and received a BLAKE Leader award in 2019.


In that respect her reception today of a Member of New Zealand Order of Merit award for services to Māori and the fashion industry, is not only well deserved but merely an indication of what we can expect to come from this incredibly selfless Māori wāhine of Aotearoa.


We congratulate her here, while sharing some of the designs which were shown in Thailand as representation of the collaboration, some of which are now in the permanent collection for perpetuity in Bangkok.


We’re sure you’ll join us in today’s celebration of not only her determination and efforts to lift the visibility of our nation’s own indigenous creatives’, but her own success in these fields she so diligently works towards uplifting.



Mā te huruhuru, ka rere te manu

(The bird adorned with feathers will soar)



Photography, fashion & words by David K. Shields


Make Up for Phoebe by Richard Symons

Hair for Phoebe by Eithne Curran

Talent : Phoebe J. Hunter at Vanity Walk NZ


Make Up & Hair for Alida by David K. Shields

Talent : Alida Aciu at Clyne Models


Thanks to White Studios NZ




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