Apparel and fashion is one of the most vibrant, dynamic and innovative sectors of Fiji. Chairman of the Fashion Council of Fiji Faraz Ali puts down his thoughts on the year 2017.
Upon reflection of the year of fashion that has now passed, I am left feeling proud to represent these incredibly hardworking people and thriving SMEs that make up the eco-system of the Fijian fashion industry.
I dare say that it has perhaps been the greatest year of fashion we have had so far.
Our industry has a rich heritage and history, starting with Cherie Whiteside, a legacy that was firmly cemented by the work of Tanya Whiteside and Ana Sweetman.
This heritage is being maintained and added to by a new generation of fashionistas who work tirelessly to build an industry that has had many ups and downs, but is now establishing itself as a modern success story.
Here are my picks of the biggest fashion stories of the year:
ANZ Fashion ATMs
This year the Council partnered with ANZ to deliver the region’s first Fashion ATM Project.
Some of our best textile designers including Hupfeld Hoerder, Moira Solvalu-John, Epeli Tuibeqa, Ilai Jikoiono, Samson Lee, and Robert Kennedy were involved in the initiative which saw their prints brighten up some of the busiest areas in Suva and Nadi.
Each ATM represented hundreds of thousands of dollars of marketing value for the designers and the Council looks forward to partnering with ANZ on further creative pursuits in 2018.
It is worthwhile to note that the initiative was later replicated in Samoa.
One of our most promising designers, Samson Lee has gone from strength to strength, steadily growing his fashion business over the last two years.
Samson has become a household name, and decided to open his first eponymous boutique in Suva this year, which also stocks strongly established local fashion labels Naina and Zilda.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Samson has lifted the standard of fashion retail in Suva, giving the city a boutique worthy of its place as the global centre for Pacific fashion.
Haus of Koila
A well known name in fashion circles, Koila Lee has relaunched her fashion career at an exponential rate, establishing a boutique and production facility in the heart of Suva this year.
Koila’s bold prints are unmissable, and with a family business ethos firmly in place, I imagine that she is one to watch in 2018.
This is a label that has always had a strong sense of self and identity. Natural fibres, Rotuman tattoo prints, strong Earthy colour pallets… you cannot argue that Letila, Paul and their team of talented individuals know who they are and what they represent.
This year saw the opening of the Rako Boutique, which also houses Michael Mausio. A great achievement for a label that has made itself an integral part of the fabric of Fijian fashion.
Tree House Boutique
Natalia Larson has taken her short run factory from strength to strength, and has established her production facility as the one of choice for our industry.
Tree House Boutique has this year expanded with the opening of a second location at My FNPF Centre, as well as taking over Pineapple Boutique at Port Denarau, where her in-house label Malia is now stocked along with other Fijian designers.
Her expansion is inspiring, and we look forward to seeing where this fashion business is heading in 2018.
Robert Kennedy Airport Outlet
Robert Kennedy continues to illustrate that he is one of the region’s leading designers by expanding his reach all the way to the pre-departures area of the Nadi International Airport.
It is an incredible achievement to have Fijian clothing represented at our country’s primary international gateway, and I do hope that we see an opportunity for more local talent to retail at the Airport.
Huppy as he is fondly known is amongst our best loved Fijian designers. Whilst his fashion business continues to grow and expand, including him now stocking his ready to wear collection at the House of Design in Suva, he has also been recently selected to represent Fiji at the Commonwealth Fashion Show in London in 2018.
A supremely talented textile designer, Sonam will have her latest fashion output, Baby Boo, available through Jack’s of Fiji stores nationwide in 2018.
She inked the lucrative deal with the giant retailer in the latter part of this year. A monumental achievement for her personally, and another strong endorsement of the growing local consumer sentiment which supports Fijian designed fashion products.
House of Design
The House of Design concept moved to Suva this year, with an urban Pacific aesthetic boutique located in one of the city’s most fashionable hubs, QBE Insurance Arcade, often known as Palm Court. The hub includes Aladdin’s Cave, 8 Mountains Boutique, and the Pacific Island Arts flagship store.
HoD is home to Rachel Fairfax, Hupfeld Hoerder, Aisea Konrote, Zuber, Jadeine Whiteside, Lava Lani, Karalina, Joan.A, Life of Fuzz, and Driftwood Culture, with plans to include Ana Rabuka into the mix early in 2018.
National Designer Workshop
The Council hosted its first National Designer Workshop with support from the British Council in November this year. This is the first of many that will result in greater understanding around Intellectual Property, Design, and Fashion Business. We were grateful to have the expertise of Karlene Dangerfield, Fashion Trainer at APTC, Jon Apted, IP Law Expert from Munro Leys, and Anabel Ali, leading Business Advisor from Aliz Pacific. We look forward to hosting the second such workshop in 2018.
APTC Graduating Class
We have an increasing number of qualified designer in the market, with Ilai Jikoiono, Ashly Daunibau, and Laisiasa Davetawalu completing Certificate IV in Applied Fashion Design this year, while Epeli Tuibeqa, Su Samuels, and Paris Nasaroa completing a Certificate III in the same programme. There are exciting times ahead for all these designers and the Fashion Council looks forward to supporting them as their industry representative body.
Fijian Fashion Festival
Perhaps what my team and I are most excited about is the Fijian Fashion Festival, the future of our industry. This will be Fiji’s first not-for- profit, industry owned, trade and consumer fashion platform, focused on the Fashion Council’s goals of SME development, and encouraging trade of Fijian designed and made fashion products. Our industry deserves this platform, which will bring together minds from all eras of our industry’s history to put together a show that truly represents the designers, and all supporting stakeholders in our fashion eco-system. We have a strong calendar of fashion events outside of the Festival which the Council continues to support, but we are endorsing the Festival as our primary fashion platform. We know that this event will drive business growth, market understanding, and will contribute to our ultimate goal to strengthen Suva’s position as the global centre for Pacific fashion. Mark your calendars, the 1st and 2nd of June 2018 will bring a new way forward for fashion in Fiji.
What a year! We ask that you support us as we work towards creating a world class, sustainable fashion industry, one that we can all be proud of. We also encourage you to support all members of the creative sector – all our visual artists, dancers, performers, graphic artists, sculptors, carvers, weavers, poets, writers, and anyone else who creates, who innovates, and who is in the business of making us think. We need these people, we need each other.