We Are Creators - Behind the Konei Flagship Store

written by Konei founder, Manawa Udy

We have our first, real life, physical retail store!

It feels symbolic this store, it's a statement by our South Auckland communities based in and around GridMNK that when things get tough, we get creative, and we find a way through.


After 5 years of cultivating growth and development for Māori and Pasefika creators, innovators and entrepreneurs, including a series of Christmas pop up shops, an online marketplace, expansion into Australia, and the inaugural Top 50 Māori Products campaign, we decided it was time to take the next step and open up a permanent store.


WIth the cost of living at a crazy high in Aotearoa, and a time where the retail industry is going through a shake up, it might not look like a wise time to extend into brick and mortar retail.


But sometimes… in order to stand out, you have to go against the crowd.  Stick your neck out, do something unique, push outside of your comfort zone, and ultimately just give things a crack.


And the best way I know how to change things up, is by tapping into our creative flow.  When we understand that we are creators, we understand that to access our dreams, to level up or to shift into a new gear, we need to create…


We Are Creators

We Are Creators is a photographic series with short, complimentary videos showcasing the work of the creative minds behind the shops’ creative conception and fitout.


Together we’ve created an authentic, indigenous, environmentally conscious in-store experience to enhance the marketplace for Aotearoa brands.


The in-store experience is a blend of the old and new, of nature and technology, of organic and manufactured, of innovation and change.


The vibe is a blend of harakeke weaving, stark 3D printed models, striking photography and Cleanstone - a new form of interior paneling made of recycled fishing nets and other plastics.


All of it is made right here in South Auckland, and is set in the collaborative whare, GridMNK.  Our creative, shared space that we opened here in Manukau in 2018.


Creative Collaboration

As the creative lead for the project, I knew I needed to tap into the skills and talents of the creatives around me to actually pull this off.


It was important to me that we create an in-store experience that our customers would engage with, that it was more than just a bunch of products on some shelves.


And I really wanted to create something together that could showcase who we are and how far we have come in the years leading up to this point.  


I wanted each of us to test our creativity, to create for a purpose that would contribute to our growth, and to provide a fitting canvas to display the amazing taonga and products we get to offer through our marketplace.


And like any good crew, everyone was keen as to jump in and give it a go!

The 4 creatives


Ahi Nyx - Kaiwhatu (Weaver)

Rāranga is my healing and when I can share that with others, I watch them heal themselves.



Te Atiawa, Ngāti Raukawa


We created some kono and other pieces to display things in, and as part of that it was exciting to run a wānanga with the Konei crew.

My personal gift to Konei is the Hinaki, a traditional tuna catching trap. We used harakeke and kareao that Manawa and her whānau gathered in Rotorua.

The hinaki for me represents creation, it was a journey of learning to create life.

Weaving is our birthright, all cultures weave, and if we can come together and share what we do here in Aotearoa it’s a way of remembering where we came from and celebrating where we are going as Māori people.

It’s really beautiful to see harakeke reach this space in a retail store, I think it has that essence of like real hands have touched it, real creation.

Ahi is founder of Ahi Rāranga


View photo gallery for more images of Ahi


Jesse Armstrong - 3D Fabricator

I love the idea of taking something from your head and then making it in real life.

Jesse Vaka 

Ngāti Hine, Tainui 

I printed the 3D modelled Taiao Elements that Manawa sent us, and we also did the Konei light up sign on the wall.

We have a commercial printing arm of the business, for me this was about seeing how we could use 3D printing in the retail space.

I’m passionate about helping people prove to themselves that being creative, being an innovator, is easier to do than they think. 3D printing is universal, it can be used in any setting, so it’s the perfect vehicle to use to help people discover this about themselves.

With this project I was able to teach Manawa the tools and techniques she needed to bring her vision to life.

Jesse is co-founder and Kaihautū of Vaka


Shop VAKA products here on Konei 

View photo gallery for more images of Jesse


Rui Peng - Designer

Strong and bold creative vision that looks after the whenua, looks after people, is really important to me.

Rui Critical 

Manchu, Han

We are a clean technology startup that transforms plastic waste into beautiful, durable, endlessly recyclable panels for building fitouts.

We made the Forest Cleanstone panels, made out of commercial fishing nets and 100% recycled plastics, which were used for the retail counter.

In the commercial fitout sector the lifecycle of the materials is about 5-7 yrs, where everything gets stripped and put into landfill.

We create a sustainable, beautiful panels that at the end of life can be recycled again.

Rui is co-founder and CEO of Critical.


View photo gallery for more images of Rui


Manawa Udy - Photographer

When you can collaborate with others in your creativity you can do things outside of your own abilities.

Manawa Ngahere 

Te Arawa, Mataatua, Tainui 

One of the things I love about setting up physical spaces and experiences for people is the creative process that we go through to create something that is really going to be engaging for people and give them a cool experience.

I led the creative design of the store’s look and feel, then worked with each of the creatives to bring that vision to life.

I personally scanned and modelled the 3D Taiao Elements, weaved some of the harakeke pieces, and then created the portraits of each of our creatives.

Learning to express yourself, to get the things that are inside us, out, is such a healthy process.

When you’re trying to execute something at that next stage, working with others who have the skill, and different ideas and perspectives, who can give you feedback and help you solve creative problems, it’s so valuable.

Manawa is founder and Kaihautū of Ngahere Communities and Konei www.ngaherecommunities.nz

Shop Manawa's photography here on Konei 

View photo gallery for more images of Manawa


Come and explore

Come out and enjoy the new in-store experience, tell your friends and whānau and bring them along too.  Konei Flagship store is located at GridMNK, 2 Osterley Way.  Open Tuesday - Saturday from 10am-2pm

If you're looking to commission some creative mahi and there’s something you’d like to explore with any of the creatives, reach out and connect.

3d fabrication3d printingConsciousCreativesCreatorsDesignFitoutFlagship storeHarakekeOrganicPhotographyPlasticsRārangaRecycling

Leave a comment