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The big reveal – APEC 2021’s fashion moment


Who wore it best?

A highlight of APEC 2021 took place this evening (13 November), when the iconic family photo was revealed, featuring Leaders all wearing a garment gifted to them by New Zealand as this year’s host.

The Leaders, amongst them presidents and prime ministers of the USA, China, Russia, Canada and Australia, wore the garment – a wrap or scarf - during the APEC Leaders Economic Meeting. Chaired by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, this was the pinnacle and concluding meeting of New Zealand’s APEC 2021 host year.

The garment was produced by New Zealand lifestyle clothing brand Untouched World. Symbolic of leadership, its design was inspired by the korowai, a traditional Maori cloak that is worn as a mantle of prestige and honour.

The garment is made from 100% quality New Zealand wool, an entirely regenerative fibre.  Drawing on elements of the APEC visual identity in its design, including the colour of the ocean that connects us all, the garment aims to inspire connection and unity for the good of the people and the planet.

This APEC custom, was established in 1993 when former US President Bill Clinton handed out bomber jackets to his counterparts. Since then, APEC Leaders’ fashion has featured everything from Driza-Bone coats to ponchos and “ao dai” tunics patterned with golden lotus flowers.

“This APEC fashion moment was an opportunity to profile New Zealand’s culture and brand on the world stage and reflect the APEC NZ story – “Join, Work, Grow. Together. Haumi ē, Hui ē, Tāiki ē,” says APEC NZ Deputy Secretary Andrea Smith.

“In New Zealand’s host year of digital diplomacy, this garment was an important way New Zealand could create a shared experience to join APEC Leaders. As a gift to the Leaders, it also acknowledged our gratitude and respect for the shared mahi and collaboration undertaken and achieved by APEC Leaders across New Zealand’s host year.”

“A virtual Leaders’ meeting presented unique challenges,” explained Andrea. “Because the APEC Leaders weren’t physically be in New Zealand, we couldn’t tailor a garment for each individual Leader. Instead, it had to be something everyone could wear comfortably, and that we could easily ship to them.”

The garment (and a pounamu gift) were presented to Leaders in a beautiful engraved gift box, made from rimu sustainably sourced from the West Coast.

Read more about the gifts APEC New Zealand has presented during our host year.