Otago Polytechnic graduate Katie Mangai has gone to extra lengths to ensure others are able to celebrate their academic success in style this week.

Katie, who will be conferred a Graduate Diploma in Design (Distinction), specialising in fashion, accepts this week’s Town Hall graduation ceremonies were cancelled for good reason.

But when the chance arose for Katie to contribute to how others might mark their achievements, be it at home and/or through their own photo opportunities, Katie leapt at the chance.

The result: five beautiful blue bonnets – to be worn by recipients of Otago Polytechnic’s Doctorate of Professional Practice.

Prof Margo Barton, Otago Polytechnic’s Head of Fashion and an expert in millinery, had fielded the initial request to design and produce the bonnets, but believed a student or graduate should be given the opportunity.

“Having completed the size range patterns, I found I didn’t have time to progress them. I was well aware of Katie’s skills, so I suggested she take on the challenge.

We were determined to make the bonnets as sustainable as possible and knew Katie would also want to work this way,” Prof Barton explains.

Although Katie wasn’t particularly concerned about missing out on any ceremony, she understands both the significance of academic achievement and of celebrating all that effort.

“For an adult student like myself, it has been such a privilege coming back to study. I did my Graduate Diploma part-time over three years, and completing it is kind of bitter-sweet because I’ve absolutely loved being here at Otago Polytechnic.

“I’m one of those crazy people who will probably come back and do more study, because I just love learning.

“There is symbolism in the regalia,” Katie says.

“It’s about how we connect our personal achievements to other occasions and create a sense of personal history.  Getting dressed up for something and putting on a costume has meaning for people.

“Graduating is definitely a significant achievement, so when Margo asked if I wanted to make the hats, I thought about how other students might want to get their photo taken in their regalia.

“And the fact these bonnets are for people who have completed doctorates . . . well, they’ve done a lot of work to get there.”

Made on sustainability principles, the graduation bonnets are comprised of organic cotton.

“And every part is biodegradable so when they eventually fall apart or can’t be repaired – which should take a long, long time given how well they are constructed,” Katie says.

“As a graduate of Otago Polytechnic Fashion programme, being able to work in such a sustainably focused environment has been really cool.”

These sustainable principles align strongly with her own business plans.

Inspired by the many pregnant women who experience the challenge of maintaining a sense of self with clothing that reflects who they are, Katie has developed LUNI, a subscription rental service for maternity clothing.

As part of the ongoing Audacious entrepreneur programme, she received the Firebrand Transformational Package last year after pitching her idea.

“I’m looking to refine my business plan a bit more. Solving business problems also involves some really creative thinking, too.

“I’ve been really inspired reading about other small businesses who have started regardless of this pandemic. Yes, the current environment isn’t ideal, but it forces people to be creative, too.”

Dr Megan Gibbons, Chief Executive, Otago Polytechnic, says Katie’s millinery efforts are yet another example of the support and kindness shown by students to others.

“She demonstrates the community we continue to create. It’s all about supporting each other.”

Almost 4000 people will graduate in absentia from Otago Polytechnic.

A total of 3953 qualifications will be conferred (ranging from level 2 certificates to level 10 Doctorates).

“Congratulations to all our graduates,” says Dr Gibbons.

“Although we had to cancel our recent Graduation ceremonies because of public health concerns, that should take nothing away from our graduates’ incredible achievements and our staff’s unwavering commitment to delivering outstanding teaching and support during a global pandemic.”

CAPTION: Claire Goode (left), who has been conferred a Doctorate of Professional Practice, wears one of the new bonnets created by fellow graduate Katie Mangai (Graduate Diploma in Design, with Distinction).


Published on 10 Mar 2022

Orderdate: 10 Mar 2022
Expiry: 10 Mar 2024