Metro Exclusive: My Life in Clothes with menswear icon, Rob Niwa

Meet Rob Niwa – traveller, collector of fine things and self-described fashion fanatic

At FashioNZ, we are all about Aotearoa’s fashion community. We are also big on recycling. So when our friends at Metro offered to share their My Life in Clothes archive with us, we jumped at it faster than our local Countdown’s last bottle of Lewis Road Creamery x Whittakers, circa 2014.

Photographed by Lula Cucchiara for the Spring 2022 issue of Metro, this piece features Auckland menswear icon Rob Niwa’s life in clothes, as told to tell Tendai Mutambu.


Double-Breasted Linen Suit — this is my linen suit which I really treasure. I’ve worn it to death. My partner Cameron got it for me from Crane Brothers in 2011 as a surprise for my birthday. (It was very difficult to surprise me because I work there.) I really love wearing it. I’ve worn it to all my friends’ weddings. I’ve also worn the pieces separately — the jacket with a white trouser, for example. It still fits, just. She’s looking a bit worse for wear; she’s seen many a party night. If this suit could talk… I’d be in trouble.

A Louis Vuitton Umbrella and Pink Loewe Moccasins from Rob Niwa's collection

Louis Vuitton Umbrella — from 2008. My first Louis Vuitton piece. I was invited to the opening of the Queen St store and I was planning on going, but one of my closest friends had passed away and it was the day of his funeral. So I called Vuitton and said, “Look I can’t come.” I went to the funeral; we had a great time, I got really drunk. And I decided to turn up to the Vuitton party to buy this umbrella but they’d closed the store. I said, “I’m actually here to buy the umbrella”, so they opened the store. I’ve had it for so long. It’s such a beautiful piece. It’s my favourite piece. Friends of mine say, “You spent how much on an umbrella?” I think at the time it was around $900.

If you buy a $10 umbrella you don’t care about it and you just lose it but if you’ve spent something then you’ll look after it. It goes with most outfits, and it reminds me of my late friend.

Loewe Pink Moccasins — I just recently got these. I got the matching slippers as well, and I had to buy the up-cycled t-shirt that I’m wearing. I’ve also got the karate jeans. I’m such a fan of JW Anderson and I love what he’s doing at Loewe. I’ve never had a shoe where people stop me on the street and ask me about it. Old ladies come up to my car window and say, “Excuse me, excuse me…” Especially in Parnell… you never know what’s coming. You can imagine me with the pink moccasins, and the car out front, the green Triumph, which we’ve just had resprayed. You couldn’t miss it. Shoes have always been the thing for me. I’d rather not eat and have ‘the shoe’. So many a time have I bought the shoe and my friends have been out and I’ve been at home. I’ve always been fashion-obsessed. All my money goes on fashion.


Rob Niwa's Hermes hat and Omega silver watch, a gift from Crane Brothers

Hermès Cotton Hat — It was my first time in Italy. Cam and I caught a train from London to Paris. We were there for a week, then we caught the train to Milan. We’ve got friends who live there and they took us to Lake Como. We also went to the world expo in Milan on food and sustainability. It was incredible… but the Italians. Their own pavilion wasn’t finished. From Milan we went to Venice and as soon as we arrived in Venice we found a hotel and Hermès was just around the corner. My whole reason for going to Venice was to buy an Hermès hat. For one of my other birthdays, Cameron bought me an Hermès umbrella — a shorter one because you can’t carry the large Vuitton one on flights. When choosing things, I care about the story. Cam said, “Rob we’ve only been here for 10 minutes, are you sure? Why don’t you calm down?” He’s a little bit more methodical with his shopping but I’m a professional at it. I arrive and I say, “I’ll take that, I’ll take that.” I know what I’m doing.

Omega Semaster Watch — This was a gift from Murray Crane for my 10th anniversary at Crane Brothers. It’s a real treasure. I used to wear it quite a bit but I have to have it repaired. It’s quite a rare piece and there’s a pin inside it that’s quite particular to this model so I’ve taken it to a few people to see if they can repair it for me. I like watches, and I’ve always had expensive taste. I’d rather not wear one until I can get the one I want.

Rob Niwa holds his Prada Backpack, and buckles up some sandals

Prada Backpack — it’s from the runway show. I was in the UK and it was for a big birthday. I bought the back- pack and then went to the Victoria and Albert Museum to see the big Balenciaga exhibition on the way to the airport before coming back to New Zealand. I’ve got matching trousers. Usually when I’m travelling it’s for a birthday so I can allow myself to indulge.

Christian Dior Sandals — I’m kind of obsessed with sandals. I have four or five pairs. I have Dior and Vuitton ones. I got these ones at the Dior store in London. Cam called and said, “I can’t find you. Where are you?” I said, “I’m in a changing room at Dior.” Cam’s got a picture of me on the train afterwards, looking like this [grins]. I remember I was wearing these sandals when I bought the Hermès hat. These are just really classic and they’ve lasted so long. They’re a great design. But the thing with wearing them is you really have to pumice these feet.

Rob Niwa holds a Nom*D Shoelace Vest on a coathanger

Nom*D Shoestring Vest — My first one of these was stolen from my car so my friend Karen Inderbitzen-Waller got me a new one! Not many were made. When Karen styled the original show she styled the vest with a top and I wear it underneath the vest.

She styled it with little grommets, little claws pinned on the end. It was such a great show. I got so many pieces from that show.

This piece originally appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Metro and online at metromag.co.nz. It is republished by FashioNZ with permission.