Hei tiki t-shirt an Olympic winner

17:00, Aug 14 2012
gareth gardner
HEY THERE: Gareth Gardner and his winning hei tiki t-shirt designs.

When Wellington graphic designer Gareth Gardner thought about what he'd like our Olympians to wear while off-duty in London, he came up with a winner - a T-shirt boasting Olympic rings interpreted as a hei tiki.

With the Olympics now over and New Zealand's team coming home with a bunch of medals, Icebreaker's brand director can't wait to get his hands on one of the T-shirts they wore proudly during the Games.

It's fitting that Gardner's T-shirt logo was chosen by the New Zealand Olympic Committee out of 3500 entries in a competition open to all Kiwis. Before he delved into his design career, Gardner played competitive hockey alongside current Black Sticks such as Ryan Archibald, Phil Burrows and Kyle Pontifex. As well as playing for Northland, Auckland and Wellington, Gardner also made the national under-18 and under-21 teams.

Clothes and fashion are important to the stylish Wellingtonian, but it's the first time his designs have been worn by so many - all our Olympians were given one of his T-shirts as part of their Olympic uniform.

Avidly watching the Olympics for the past fortnight, he spotted the equestrian team wearing the T-shirt, and members of the sailing team too. When the uniform was unveiled in Auckland, footballer Ian Hogg and Black Stick Anita Punt modelled his design.

"It makes me feel really proud to see it being worn," he says.


The brief was a design that reflected what it meant to be a proud New Zealander at the Games.

Keen to create something that he would also like to wear, he says: "I wanted something that boldly referenced New Zealand - our culture and heritage et cetera, and the iconic hei tiki seemed appropriate for a competitive, sporting occasion, such as the Olympics.

"But I wanted to design a T-shirt that was also contemporary and credible in its own right, so I felt it needed a twist.

"Creating the tiki by rearranging the five Olympic rings, was a nice, simple way to acknowledge our proud Olympic history and made it more intriguing visually - where people would recognise one well-known symbol from within another."

His win was unconnected to his work at Icebreaker, and he came up with the design while off-duty. His work at the merino clothing company has nothing to do with the clothing design - instead he helps design overall brand concepts.

Rodd and Gunn made the official Olympic uniform, and as part of the deal, holds the intellectual property. Surprisingly, Gardner hasn't got his hands on a T-shirt, because they're all in London, although he has been assured he'll get one.

Nor can he sell it to fans. "I could have sold tonnes. There's been so much interest."

In the early days of his graphic design career, Gardner worked for a design firm in London, where he worked on several fashion and sports brands.

"As a designer, you become fascinated with how people respond to visual things. How something affects them and their identity," he says.

Watch this space. We predict we haven't seen the last of him.