Anyone can belong – just be a kiwi – the idea of belonging to a gang or tribe of kiwis is interpreted in twenty different languages on the front – we are all Ngati Aotearoa.

It was inspired by an article by Matt Suddain in Sunday magazine a couple of years ago and it got me thinking…about patches, clothing, belonging and our right for expression.

Wanting to make the least offensive gang jacket possible started with material choices – vintage blankets and a tapestry for the gang patch. Then came design choices, then came content choices.

Thinking of a name for the gang (Ngati Aotearoa) actually made me think more deeply about gangs and tribes, which led to my tribe, which then led to who or what is a New Zealander? I am a fifth generation New Zealander and know of no other place I could possibly call home. My great-great grandparents travelled a long way (geographically) to find a new home. It struck me that most other New Zealanders have either travelled a long way in miles or years to be here, and for most of them, there is no going back. So here we are, on some islands at the bottom of the world, or the top - depending on your orientation and for most of us there’s nowhere to go back to.

We’re a tribe of kiwis but what does that mean? I asked representatives from 20 different cultural groups what to describe what it meant to belong to a ‘tribe of kiwis’. This too is worked into the design.

Here’s the story that started this train of thought:


There seems to be ongoing confusion over patches. The ban on patches refers specifically to gang membership insignia. It does not in any way refer to eye patches. If you have a specific medical condition such as cataracts or weepiness and you need to wear an eye patch, then you will not be arrested. (NOTE: You can’t just change your gang patch to an eye patch. We’ve thought of that.) Also Nicorette patches, they’re fine, if you’re trying to give up your “ciggies” then we don’t want to make life more difficult. Gangs are edgy enough. There’s rumours of a Black Power brand stop-smoking patch that releases a small amount of P directly into your bloodstream. UNNACEPTABLE.

Also, to those who emailed, no, we can’t get a ban through for gang dogs, even if the dog is called Patches. Seems to be a lot of confusion over the patches ban in general, so let me just say one more time: My council and I will not tolerate a group of men meeting on a regular basis to carry out activities that affect the freedom of people to live their lives how they want.

Thanks Matt for permission to reproduce.

I’d love to see people in Whanganui arrested for wearing one of these jackets.

Technical Information: 

Made using the following:

  • Found blanket
  • Found vintage fabrics for lining jacket
  • Found buttons
  • Found tapestry
  • Machine embroidery
  • Wool for bloomers

Jacket | Size 10 [NZ]

Bloomers | Extra small [somewhere between an 8 & 10 NZ]

Wanna be in my gang? part of the Tangatawho? collection designed by Margaret Lewis. Photo by Paul Garelja. Entered Style Pasifika 2011