Prime minister Jacinda Ardern made history last night, with an outstanding landslide win and 49.1 percent of the overall vote - the largest share since MMP began. The numbers reflect a surge in voter turnout, the highest for 20 years.
The country’s swing to the left was also represented in Labour wins in long-standing blue electorates like Ilam, East Coast, Hamilton East, Ōtaki and Nelson, and a win for the Greens’ Chlöe Swarbrick in the marginal Auckland Central electorate.
Let me just get this out of the way: I understand this perspective is not essential or important. It’s about the numbers and results - and how these will shape our government and country for three more years. I also understand that often conversations around clothing and politics focus unfairly on women.
But politicians across the spectrum are aware of the power and symbolism of clothing. Following the much closer 2017 election results, Winston Peters used a well-placed accessory to send a message and make a little joke - with an appearance after drawn-out coalition negotiations while wearing a tie emblazoned with the acronym ‘TGIF’.
And it’s 2020: a person can be a respected politician and world leader and value good design and creativity.
Our prime minister clearly does, and has shown her support for New Zealand-made design and the local fashion industry which is made up of many small businesses (retail, manufacturing, etc.) that have been hit hard by Covid.
On the campaign trail Jacinda favoured Kate Sylvester and Juliette Hogan, and her election night ensemble was a custom, draped burgundy dress and pant set by Maaike worn with Zoe and Morgan earrings.
It was a throwback to her last election night in 2017, where she wore a similar look from Maaike designers Emilie Pullar and Abby van Schreven.
“The colour is a connection for sure and definitely a nod to our past election look for her but more than anything we are quite limited for colour on election night - no blues or greens and patterns are too busy,” says Emilie. “She looks sensational in burgundy so it’s an easy job for us.”
The Karangahape Road-based pair have worked with the prime minister for a number of years, but Emilie was quick to stress that they feel what she wears shouldn’t be of importance.
“We almost feel slightly uncomfortable discussing it as we feel it is often unfair on women in power to have to deal with people discussing their clothes, as men’s suits are rarely mentioned. That is why we opted for simple and clean lines so it wouldn’t be a distraction or huge talking point.”
The brand has traditionally been a go-to for politicians, and was also worn by Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer last night.
Pink was the preferred colour for Act leader David Seymour, who chose a vibrant tie that he has worn throughout the campaign for his party’s celebration at deeply uncool Auckland restaurant Headquarters.
In Russell, New Zealand First’s Winston Peters wore his signature pinstripe suit with a maroon tie and matching pocket square - a classic look for a classic politician.
In contrast at the Greens’ party at Auckland’s GridAKL, co-leader James Shaw was the picture of smart-casual in jeans, no tie and a grey check blazer. Co-leader Marama Davidson continued her sustainable approach in a vintage skirt suit, sourced by local vintage shoppers Duo Drops from Trade Me, with a harakeke hair piece spotted by her daughter at home and turned into a brooch.
Marama had earlier shared an Instagram post talking openly about clothing and its role in her campaign - an extremely rare occurrence for a politician, particularly in New Zealand.
“I would say 95% of my wardrobe is hokohoko/recycled/pre-loved/op-shop or whatever you want to call it. This has been a way of life for generations of our whānau,” she wrote.
“I have to look and feel confident and credible when I dress for media and public appearances and just doing my job. A reality that I come to terms with because those close to me know I'd prefer to live in track pants and T-shirts all day!”
After a seemingly never-ending campaign, here's hoping that’s what many politicians are able to relax in at home today.
Main photo / The Spinoff