Founder Nora Swann on adapting Pacific Fusion Fashion Show in a pandemic

PFFS 2021 Nora Swann interview

Nora Swann, founder of Pacific Fusion Fashion Show. Image supplied.

Pacific Fusion Fashion Show (PFFS) returns to South Auckland for it’s sixth event on Saturday 26th February 2022 and that’s thanks to the perseverance and dedication of founder Nora Swann and her hardworking team. What began as an exciting idea for the talented stylist and entrepreneur came to life initially in late 2016 with the first event, and Pacific Fusion Fashion Show has gone from strength to strength ever since.

PFFS offers an incredible platform for Pasifika and Māori designers to showcase their talents while being supported by a brilliant team of emerging and established fashion industry and events professionals. The result is the fantastic Pacific Fusion Fashion Show which is a South Auckland-based runway event like no other. After taking the event to Wellington in late 2020 for a livestreamed digital presentation, this year the event will offer a dazzling runway experience as it takes to the street in Papatoetoe, South Auckland.

Like every other recent event in Aotearoa, Pacific Fusion Fashion Show has been rescheduled and rethought to work in these uncertain times we find ourselves in due to the global pandemic. It’s not exactly easy to plan a major event when things change on short notice and new rules and protocols designed to keep us safe mean organisers have to adapt their plans quickly but Nora Swann’s positive nature and faith in her community keeps her persevering.

Alongside producing Pacific Fusion Fashion Show, Nora runs her successful Dressed in Confidence programme, taking participants on a journey of self-discovery and confidence-building. She also utilises her creative skills as a personal stylist working with a range of clients on developing their personal style and understanding what makes them look and feel great. Fashion is clearly Nora’s happy place and she embraces every opportunity to share her love of fashion with her clients and community.

We caught up with Nora to find out how she has found planning a big event in Covid times, what we can expect from this year’s PFFS and where she finds creative inspiration?

What has it been like trying to plan your sixth PFFS in the midst of the pandemic with the changing protection systems and uncertainty?

Frustrating! (lol) If I were to be completely honest.

We have basically been coming up with options A,B,C,D…. because of the uncertainty of the pandemic. I’ve taught myself to always look for a positive in all situations so laughing has helped me cope when it has become difficult.

I knew what I was getting into when I decided to go ahead so it’s not like I wasn’t prepared for it though. So, I’ve become very solutions focussed.

As an event organiser what have some of the challenges of trying to keep things on track when there’s been a lockdown and the dates have had to change for the event?

Keeping the hopes high in all our stakeholders, in particular our designers and models, as well as our partners, suppliers and operations team. I think some people have been waiting for the ‘event cancelled due to Covid’ email notification to come through but I refuse to accept defeat.

I am really grateful to all our partners though as they’ve all supported my decision to postpone rather than cancel the show.

PFFS 2020 screening event

Pacific Fusion Fashion Show 2020 designers, models and creative team in Wellington for the event.

How are you adjusting your event to work with the current safety protocols for Covid-19?

The safety of everyone involved is the utmost important aspect of the event so it’s encouraging to see government implement the necessary systems that will give everyone the confidence to go back into the community. We’re basically following the rules the government has implemented and requiring vaccine passports for entry and participation in our event.

Last year, you held a smaller event in Wellington with a digital presentation that was livestreamed, what did you learn from that and what made you decide to go back to a bigger runway event for the sixth PFFS?

I truly believe a virtual event will never hold the same excitement as an actual physical fashion show. Dressing up, mingling with other fashion enthusiasts, being up close and personal with the models, bubbles, lights, ambience – LOVE! You can try and pretty up a digital show with all these fancy gadgets and virtual features but it will never have the same effect as an actual show.

How have you and your team adapted how you work in this situation and what has worked well for you?

A lot of positive thoughts, strategizing and patience. It has not been an easy journey and I’m sure everyone else who organises events will know the feeling. We really made an effort to keep in contact with each other, the designers and models during lockdown via Zoom and still managed to run our digital capacity building workshops for our designers.

Without giving too much away can you tell us a bit about the February event and what attendees can expect?

You would’ve seen our recent marketing promotion where we announced our venue as St George Street in Papatoetoe. We are basically bringing the South Auckland street to life by hosting our show on the road. Regular catchups with Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, Panuku and our traffic management plan team give me the confidence that from an operations point, everything is going to plan, allowing for a spectacular night.

PFFS 2021 Nora Swann interview

Alongside her event work Nora is a skilled personal stylist.

What makes you excited about PFFS and what does the event mean to the Pasifika and South Auckland communities?

PFFS is really a celebration of the Pacific fashion community. We definitely offer something different when it comes to fashion. We are very community focused so you can guarantee that the community will come out to support even if they don’t have a huge interest in fashion generally. They will be there to support their loved ones and the Pacific fashion movement itself.

Who are your go-to designers and brands at the moment and what looks are you loving wearing?

I am going to be biased and say that I’m always interested in what the emerging Pacific designers are creating. The step away from traditional Pacificwear is becoming more and more evident.

I like the designers who are bold, pushing boundaries, creating new trends and not just seeing something in mainstream and then creating it again with a Pacific print, there’s nothing original there. You can tell those who have poured their hearts into their collections. These are the collections that get snapped up straight off the runway.

I have a really unique style so I love how I can love something that most people don’t like. That means I’m not fighting over something and am not going to look the same as anyone else (one of my worst nightmares).

Where do you look to for creative inspiration and why?

I take inspiration from anything and everything. You may think it’s quite broad but I really do. Something so mundane can also be seen as something beautiful. I do think the mood you’re in also helps with interpretation and expression.

What makes you excited for the future?

I have learnt that its not enough to be excited for the future. You have to be brave enough to create the future that you want, and you need to stay the course.

Tickets for Pacific Fusion Fashion Show are available now on Eventfinda.

PFFS 2020 screening event

Sammy Salsa (left) and Diamond Langi (right) hosting the Pacific Fusion Fashion Show 2020 digital event.

Images supplied.

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