One of the most popular souvenirs from NZ is a curvaceous greenstone (jade) pendant, probably based on a Maori design. They’re available all over the country, though it makes sense to buy close to the main source of raw material around Greymouth and Hokitika on the West Coast of the South Island. Most of the cheaper goods are manufactured from Chinese jade, which is regarded as inferior: for the genuine article, insist on NZ pounamu carved locally.
A variation on this theme is the bone pendant. Several places around the country give you a chance to work a piece of cattle bone into your own design or something based on classic Maori iconography. With a little talent and application you should be able to whip up something to be proud of in a few hours. Something similar can be made of iridescent paua shell, or you can simply buy ready-made pieces fashioned into anything from buttons to detailed picture frames.
Sheepskin and wool products are also big, as are garments – socks, sweaters etc – at least partly made from possum fur. New Zealanders hate these pests and will thank you for supporting any industry which hastens their demise. A quality possum-fur throw will set you back over $1000 but cushion covers come much cheaper. Sheepskins go for around $100.
There’s plenty of outdoor clothing around, but look out for the Icebreaker (w icebreaker.com), Untouched World (w untouchedworld.co.nz) and Glowing Sky (w glowingsky.co.nz) brands of stylish Merino-wool garments, which are fairly pricey but feel great, keep you warm and don’t harbour nasty odours.
Some of New Zealand’s top fashion designers are world-class. Garments by Karen Walker, Kate Sylvester, Trelise Cooper, Alexandra Owen, Zambesi and World are expensive but coveted and unique.