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Kahu Tāmaki - Auckland War Memorial Museums’ WardrobeRecognised Internationally

On Thursday 3 December 2021 Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum reopened its South Atrium entrance – Te Ao Mārama – to reveal the most significant changes to the Museum in more than a decade. One such change was Kahu Tāmaki, a wardrobe project that aimed to revamp the Museums’ front-of-house Visitor Host uniforms to allow them to feel more connected to their workplace.

Now, Kahu Tāmaki has been recognised internationally by the Professional Clothing Industry Association Worldwide (PCIAW), winning the award for ‘Best Managed Boutique Contract’ and runner-up for ‘Best Design for Corporate Clothing’ Award at the PCIAW Awards 2021.

Catherine Smith, Director of People and Organisation at Auckland Museum, says, “We are absolutely delighted to have our wardrobe receive international recognition. It’s testament to the work of our staff and volunteers who have informed the development of Kahu Tāmaki.”

Kahu Tāmaki is also a finalist in the 2021 Best Design Awards in both the Large Brand Identity/Cultural and Toitanga categories.

Teu le Vā (the Pacific Dimension) and He Korahi Māori (The Māori Dimension) are written into Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum's mission. The Wardrobe Project reimagined staff uniforms with these dimensions woven into the very fabric of the clothing its people now wear.

A brief was provided to artists and designers to pitch for a fabric design that would evoke the mission of "Tui tui hono tangata, whenua me te moana. Connect people through stories of people, land and seas." The goal was to clothe Museum staff in a design that would connect them to the taonga in the Museum.

Throughout the process, staff and volunteers were consulted about style, cut and fabric, their 'wants' and 'absolutely-do-not-wants'. The wardrobe would be gender-neutral, too, so staff could choose garments that made them feel good and comfortable without having to navigate gender-specific style and fit descriptions.

“We wanted our wardrobe to reflect our unique identity at Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum,” says Catherine Smith.

To develop a fabric pattern connected to the Museum’s collections, taonga were selected by the Museum’s Human History and Māori & Pacific Development teams, chosen for their representation of manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga: protection, knowledge, hospitality, and generosity.

Textile and jewelry designer Nichola Te Kiri, was selected for her pattern design. Nichola studied the kaupapa and design elements of the collection objects, devising the tohu (design) dominated by triangular bird’s wings (a reference to Rongo) and diamond shapes (embodying protection and shelter). The shape of the bird wings also points to the three-part natural world paradigm of Te Kore (the void), Te Pō (the darkness), and Te Ao Mārama (the world of light). Like the objects that inform them, the motifs in the fabric are also layered: when the bird wing form is flipped it transfigures the manu (bird) into a maunga (mountain), which in turn references the location of the Museum atop the hill Pukekawa, and also the view of the wider Tāmaki region ringed as it is by mountains.

Olivia Taouma, Teu Le Va Manager at Auckland Museum says "O le aso ma le filiga, o le aso fo'i ma le mata'igatila – we look to the horizon for new ways of moving forward whilst keeping both the past and the present at the forefront of our minds and actions. This proverb comes to mind when I think about our new Museums attire, which weaves the diverse cultural strands of the Museum's past and present into its future. For the first time, I see me and our Pasifika reflected in its shimmering elements, colours, and motifs which signifies that this is a place for us, as it tells our stories in a new way for future horizons."

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