A history of New Zealand politicians and fashion

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A history of New Zealand politicians and fashion

New Zealand Fashion week is back on the runway after a three-year hiatus and in a historic first, the organisers have put Te Ao Māori as the focus of this year’s event. Partnering with Auckland Iwi, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, they have chosen the theme Kahuria, which means to adorn.

On Tuesday, Kiri Nathan became the first Māori designer to open the week. Her show, representing hope and the future, featured a surprise guest; Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi. He wore one of Nathan’s designs, accessorising the look with Nike Air Jordan 1 mids and a flat cap, ditching his usual cowboy hat.

But he’s far from the first New Zealand politician to walk the runway.

It began with former Prime Minister Helen Clark who walked out wearing a mask before revealing her identity at the 2002 World of Wearable Arts festival in Nelson. She set New Zealand fashion history by being the first politician to get involved in Kiwi fashion modelling.

Twenty years later, it would be former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern following suit at the Wearable Arts festival in Wellington, surprising the audience as she walked out on stage wearing a specially commissioned piece created by New Zealand designer Dylan Mulder.

The garment represented New Zealand “getting back out there into the world and back into that international platform,” as Covid-19 restrictions eased across the country.

Originally, Ardern was meant to wear heels with the garment, but a last-minute decision was made to have her wear no shoes instead.

“We realised, let’s earth her and connect her with the ground, and it was really organic,” Mulder said.

But perhaps the most comical runway walk came from former Prime Minister John Key in 2011. He sashayed down the catwalk to promote the Rugby World Cup volunteer uniform which brought on a fair share of humorous attention.

By Charlotte McKenzie

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