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Weaving Māori knowledge, fashion and intellectual property

When two business people wanted to promote Māori fashion, they knew they had to protect their intellectual property from the outset. Find out how they did it.

Building your idea

Miromoda is a platform for Māori fashion designers. Think Project Runway, done the Aotearoa way.  

It was founded by Ata te Kanawa (Ngāti Maniapoto) and Rex Turnbull to boost the presence of Māori designers in mainstream fashion.  

They shared a vision to redefine New Zealand fashion, and brought together key industry stakeholders, including from industry professionals, Te Puni Kōkiri and local councils.  

Within weeks, a new organisation was established. Just over a year later, in September 2009, Māori fashion designers were showcasing their unique wares at New Zealand Fashion Week.

Protecting the company brand

While the primary goal was to promote Māori fashion and nurture emerging talent, Ata recognised the value of protecting their intellectual property (IP) from the beginning.

Initially, they registered the company name, Indigenous Māori Fashion Apparel Board Ltd, with the New Zealand Companies Office.   

It was Ata’s lawyer friend, however, who later encouraged them to take further steps to protect their brand, leading to the registration of trade marks for both the unique Miromoda name and logo.  

Miromoda represents a name that is international, but also pays homage to Māori fashion. Miro, a Māori word for the twining of fibres joined with moda, an Italian word for fashion.

You can’t register a word that is common in your industry. You could register the name ‘Milk’ as an architecture firm, but not for a milk product.

You can’t register a word that is common in your industry. You could register the name ‘Milk’ as an architecture firm, but not for a milk product.

Benefits of protecting your IP

By securing their IP rights, Miromoda made sure that their brand was registered.

It allowed Miromoda to safeguard the physical aspects of their brand, such as the logo, as well as protect the intangible aspects, including the mana and whakapapa intricately woven into the brand’s fabric. 

“Now that the brand is 10 years old – and we’ve got a good brand – it’s synonymous with quality and authenticity, I can actually see the sense in it all!” says Ata.

“It’s protecting the physicality of the brand, as well as the mana actually, the mana of the brand, and its whakapapa.”

Over the past decade, Miromoda has established itself as a reputable entity in the fashion industry.

They have attracted not only local audiences but also international attention, with feature articles appearing in France and Germany, and fashion reporters, bloggers, and journalists praising Miromoda's progressive approach to Māori fashion.

Keeping your ideas safe for the future

Backed by a strong brand, Miromoda is firmly established, and now Ata’s looking to the future for new challenges and is considering developing the commercial side of the venture.  

By registering its IP, Miromoda has positioned itself as a key player in the fashion landscape and has tailored a path for Māori creatives to strut their way to success.  

Protecting your innovations by registering IP with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand helps to ensure your ideas remain securely under your spotlight—not someone else’s.

Read more about Miromoda’s IP journey on the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand website.

Miromoda(external link) — IPONZ

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