Behind the scenes

The New Zealand Fashion Museum story

Fashion is an important way to express our identity as individuals and as a society. As New Zealand has evolved, so has our own unique style. We have a rich history of inventive design and it is important to record this in a museum dedicated to the research and presentation of fashion's contribution to the cultural life of our society.


The New Zealand Fashion Museum (NZFM) was established in February 2010 as a bold, new and innovative organisation dedicated to making our fashion history enjoyable, relevant, accessible to a broad audience.


NZFM embraces the traditional purpose of a museum, which is to develop social knowledge and encourage discussion about society, culture and our national identity. It does however break with the traditional museum form with its ability to be flexible, dynamic and a museum trendsetter. It chooses to be represented not by a grand building or a physical collection but instead by the quality of its research, its publications, its online museum and by its award-winning pop-up exhibitions.


As acquiring and conserving fashion garments is a service already provided by other public and private institutions, NZFM borrows rather than collects. Sourcing garments from the wider community for its exhibitions encourages participation and engagement while recognising the important contribution people's experiences and stories make in understanding our past. This strategy also allows the museum to be responsive to current social questions and interests as we grow a body of educational and cultural resource that’s easily accessible to the public and emerging fashion creatives.


Show & tell

New Zealand Fashion Museum exhibitions

NZFM exhibitions are not constrained by their ties to a building. Instead they pop up in spaces that are appropriate to their subject matter and relevant to their target audience.


Looking Terrific: The story of El Jay opened in 2010 at the Gus Fisher Gallery in Auckland to wide public and media acclaim. It was followed by a second showing at Kirkcaldie & Stains in Wellington in September 2010. Gus Fisher, who lent his name to the gallery, was also the man behind the El Jay label for 50 years, while Kirkcaldie & Stains department store had been the long-time Wellington stockist of the El Jay and Christian Dior by El Jay labels.


Black in Fashion was selected to be part of the official REAL NZ 2011 Festival programme which coincided with the Rugby World Cup and was staged on the fringe of the designated Fan Zone in the Britomart precinct in downtown Auckland in September and October 2011 where it drew a large local and international audience.


Home Sewn: Original New Zealand Fashion had four different manifestations as it travelled around the country. Following a very successful Auckland season at Britomart's The Nathan Club, the exhibition travelled to Whangarei, Dunedin and the Dowse Art Gallery in Lower Hutt. Home Sewn earned the 2013 Museums Aotearoa Award for Exhibition Excellence: "An outstanding new exhibition project that contributes to best practice in the museum sector in Aotearoa New Zealand, and demonstrates excellence, relevance and vision."


The Age of Aquarius: A 1970s Revolution in Fashion curator, Doris de Pont, presented this extraordinary decade of fashion through the wardrobes and stories of six individuals, and through six examples of different modes of fashion making. The selection was representative of both the diversity that emerged at the time and the trends that were prevalent. The Age of Aquarius opened in Parnell, Auckland in September 2013 before travelling to Rotorua Museum then the Dowse Art Museum in 2014.


HELLO, we are the New Zealand Fashion Museum is a mini retrospective of the four previous NZFM exhibitions. Each canvased a different aspect of our fashion heritage and explored what a look inside the country's wardrobes reveals about ourselves. Held at Silo Park on Auckland's Waterfront, the exhibition was part of the 2014 Fashion in the City festival.


Elle and the Youthquake: The changing face of fashion tells the story of Wendy Ganley and her boutique Elle. The exhibition also shows Wendy’s position within the whakapapa of New Zealand fashion as well as drawing on the Elle story as a framework to pose questions about the situation for new designers today. Elle and the Youthquake opened in Auckland in September 2014.


At the Beach: 100 years of summer fashion in New Zealand presents more than 120 garments that help to tell the story of the evolution of summer fashion in New Zealand. The exhibition explores how our relationship to the coast not only encapsulates our identity but how it has inadvertently influenced it. It opened at the Maritime Museum in October 2015 and The Dowse Art Museum in November 2016. 


The Intellectual Fashion Show 2016 revisited a 1956 exhibition by artist June Black. In collaboration with Blikfang Gallery, the exhibition included the work of more than 50 fashion designers, milliners, artists poets and other creatives who interpreted June's original metaphorical costumes. The exhibition opened at the Gus Fisher Gallery in October 2016.


New Zealand Fashion Museum publications

NZFM has produced books to accompany each exhibition - available to purchase in our online store. We have also published an e-book, Being There, the memoirs of New Zealand fashion writer Cecilie Geary.


New Zealand Fashion Museum online

The cornerstone of NZFM is its online museum. It provides a home for the recorded pop-up exhibitions and a vehicle for exclusive online exhibitions. Bringing together a record of the national collection of fashion objects held in public collections and in private homes, it is a resource of tremendous value for research as well as enjoyment. The online museum's user generated component enables the NZFM to extend its reach to collect oral history and living knowledge about the New Zealand fashion industry and experience.


New Zealand Fashion Museum trustees

NZFM is a Registered Charitable Trust formed in February 2010. The trustees, who have been recruited for their specialist skills, include arts administrator and publisher Lesley Smith, specialist apparel/textile supply chain manager Karen White, exhibitions project manager Emily Trent, marketing and creative developer Kate Tattersfield and copyright specialist Sarah Powell.


Access to the museum is free. This is made possible through the generosity of individual and company donors, supportive sponsors, public grants and revenue generated by publication royalties and sales. We welcome your support.

Terms of Use

The New Zealand Fashion Museum is for anyone with a love of fashion, heritage, innovation and creativity. With no fixed abode other than this online address, it is a museum dedicated to the curation of New Zealand’s rich fashion past, making it relevant for the present and future.

Established in 2010 as a Charitable Trust, it records and shares the stories of the people, objects and photographs that have contributed to the development of New Zealand's unique fashion identity. It makes them visible and accessible to a broad audience through pop-up exhibitions, publications and our online museum. Read more 


T: +64 9 376 0929