Fashion designer Kiri Nathan’s mum used to clean the houses of affluent people in Remuera and St Heliers.
Young Kiri would go along to help and there would always be the latest fashion magazine lying around – “that’s when I started to really develop this love of fashion”.
“I just thought they were amazing and these lovely housewives used to gift me the magazines once they’d had a read so I’d take them home and cover the walls with photos of all these incredible editorials and join the clothing class at school. It developed from there.”
Kiri has just come back from showcasing at London Fashion Week and is off to China this week: “I sit here and pinch myself and try to take a breath.”
Though fashion was her first love, the 40-year-old mother of five – and grandmother of one – says life and a lack of confidence to back herself delayed her foray into the world of fashion and business until just a few years ago.
At 18 she became a solo mother and, to support her son, became a flight attendant. When he was 10 she met her husband Jason, who also had a 10-year-old daughter. They married and had three children in three and a half years.
Life, not surprisingly, is “full on”. Travel was not conducive with young babies so a few years ago Kiri hung up her wings and stayed home. But she soon got bored so entered, and won, Style Pasifika. That and other competition wins led her to set up her own business, Kiri Nathan Ltd, and though the company has run at a loss since it began, this year looks set to be the turning point – the aim is to achieve $1 million in turnover.
She credits meeting fashion designer Annah Stretton through competitions as changing her life. Annah is mentoring Kiri and has taken her under her wing.
“I upskilled in her manufacturing unit, I drove down to Morrinsville every day for six months and also I think I upskilled in general by just being around her and watching her in business, watching how she managed situations and people. That was huge learning.”
That was last year. They had a collaborative label and from that Kiri met the British High Commissioner and the director of the British Council, who helped get her to London. She says life is a “massive juggle” but her family makes everything real. They are what makes her “get out of bed every day and go hard so that things will be better for them”.
Kiri says at the Company of Women she gets great advice and support from other women.
“The one thing a lot of people have kept telling me is when you crack it, it will happen very quickly so make sure you’ve got all your systems and processes in place so you can move from a very small-scale business to a very big-scale business efficiently and effectively.”
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