Introducing PFFS Designers – FOU CUSTOMMADE, Vai & Co, MASC and XTRA BISH

Pacific Fusion Fashion Show 2020 is just a few short weeks away now and in the lead-in we’re going to introduce you to the talented designers who will be showcasing their collections at the event. Each label has been hand-picked by event founder Nora Swann for their talent and style which celebrates their individuality and culture.

We also have a look from each of the designer’s collections that will be shared at PFFS so you can get a preview of the collections. This year the event will be a digital showcase streamed online on Saturday 5th December and we’ll have more details about that soon. In the meantime we’d like to introduce you to FOU CUSTOMMADE, Vai & Co, MASC and XTRA BISH.

PFFS designer interview FOU CUSTOMMADE

Exclusive sneak preview from FOU CUSTOMMADE PFFS collection. Image by Bright Sunday.

FOU CUSTOMMADE

Director – Asomaliu Tagi’ilima, Designers – Norah Harriman and Mary So’onaoso

What made you become a designer and how did you go about achieving it?
Aso: I love clothing, style, colour and utilising different textures. However, my passion is to help plus size women find their dignity and strength, by not being afraid of colour and their size. But to embrace and be proud of their bodies, no matter ethnicity, religion, colour, status and background. FOU was then created and has been operating for 3 years with the vision to empower, which we have achieved with numerous clienteles coming through.

Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
Mary: I like to mix it up a lot, I love to wear different Pacific materials and then sort of remix it with what’s happening currently in the modern climate of young people. For me, it’s all about trying to find your identity in what you wear, so I draw a lot from my culture but also living in the diaspora, fusing two different worlds together.

What inspires you?
Aso: FOU’s philosophy is based on this scripture Proverbs 31:25: “She is clothed with Strength and Dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future”. For each of us we are inspired by different things, for me it’s about finding and creating styles that can give confidence to plus size women and to have that WOW factor. Working in the health sector for 11.5 years I met amazing plus size women who were strong in their profession, however these women were also hard working, wife’s, mothers, sisters, aunties and grandmothers within their families and communities. With all the pressures they allowed themselves to let go, and were confined by societies perception that black is the only colour for them to hid those body parts. I feel that FOU is a pathway to encourage Plus Women that they should not be afraid of colour, but colour is there best friend. So that sums up my inspiration of what FOU is all about Niu Beginning, Niu look, Niu Me.

What does fashion mean to you?
Norah: Fashion is about your story, your journey. A lot of the stuff that we do derives from people that we have meet for example some the materials that you see are raw materials that we have bought from somebody in Samoa like a man that weaves and prints them in his house to make a little bit of cash on the side. Fashion is about the stories, it’s not just about us, it’s about who made the materials or woven pieces before we even got it. Fashion is about stories and people.

Aso: It’s about time, that moment, and space you’re in, can help bring a collection together. This collection has different elements, during the lockdown was the hardest times, as emotions were high and self-doubt played on my mind. However, with perseverance and PRAYER we got it done. One of our pieces has chains, which represented bondage because we were chained in our own homes unable to meet and create as a team. So, fashion for us means a lot of different things.

What is the process like for making your garments and how long does it take you?
Mary: I’ll speak on behalf of Aso on this one as he underestimates how fast he is. Aso has a portfolio that stretches years and he’s gotten it into a position where he’s highly professional and highly skilled at what he does, but it’s taken a long time, a long time that he’s built his portfolio. I think he could probably make a garment in two days or a day depending on what the garment is but it comes from a wealth of knowledge that he has and we love to see it and celebrate his skill in this process.

Norah: And we have pieces that are our money makers that always get bought by girls and those are generally a day to make, like our crop tops and our sack dresses, pieces like that.

What can we expect from your collection for PFFS?
Aso: You can expect difference, out of the box, variety, diversity, again we like a whole mixture of different sizes, shapes, natural materials and just having fun.

Mary: I think New Zealand fashion is inspired a lot by what happens outside New Zealand rather than magnifying the mirror within. In my opinion, we need to see more of our local brands celebrated and that includes Pacific peoples. I hope to see that diversity increases the opportunities for Pasifika and for Maori to showcase in the New Zealand fashion industry. We need to lift the fashion industry in terms of diversity and inclusion especially in what Aotearoa looks like today, multi-cultural

How important is it for Pacific people to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?
Mary: There’s power in the collective. I work in an industry where again the Pacific world view is often homogenised, however is quite different, its quite vast, there’s Samoans, there’s Tongans, there’s Tuvaluans and usually there’s sort of one umbrella that’s placed on them. So for us it’s trying to unpack that narrative and using fashion and FOU as a tool to expand that thinking so people aren’t just going ‘oh you’re just a Pacific person, no, I’m a Pacific person, a Samoan, a woman!” We need to tell this story together, there isn’t just one individual going on it on their own. So, definitely continuing to move as a collective and lift each other up where we can and as what my sister was saying each garment has a story like it was bought in a market and that helped a woman that was selling her fabrics, then it comes through us and then it goes to the wearer. So, there’s the weaving of stories that’s quite unique, we do that naturally as a Pacific community.

What are your plans for your brand and where do you see it heading?
Aso: Keep creating, keep our goals in mind which is to again empower plus size women, women in general to find self-confidence and not let any barriers hold you back. Just be confident and be proud of who you are.

Norah: Following the call of God.

PFFS designer interview Vai and Co

Exclusive sneak preview from Vai & Co PFFS collection.

Vai & Co

Vai Tu’akalau and daughter Chesta Fa’otusia

What made you become a designer and how did you go about achieving it?
I grew up with a mother who was a seamstress, so my siblings and I had creativity and fashion around us from a young age. She is the person who motivated me to become a designer and when I moved to New Zealand, I always wanted to pursue fashion and take it to another level. My mother taught me for 20 years how to sew and design, but I didn’t have the opportunity to start out on my own until 7 months ago when my daughter and I began Vai & Co.

Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
I like to be different, and I try to incorporate this into my designs. I really enjoy bright colours, and I like the challenge of creating unique pieces outside of what you’d normally see in fashion.

What inspires you?
My family, my daughter and my community. I am Tongan, and that in itself inspires me! I have a lot of customers from the Tongan community who always need something made for church, and occasions – I enjoy working with them. It just inspires me when people genuinely like what I make for them, because I enjoy seeing them happy.

What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion to me means expressing your uniqueness and being different! As I said, I like being different, so I enjoy helping my customers to express themselves in their own unique way through what I do.

What is the process like for making your garments and how long does it take you?
It depends on the style requested by the customer. I am known to meet with my customers, and assist them in picking fabrics and going over what they’d like made. I don’t use patterns so it is always helpful for me to see the customer before I get started, and just get to know what their vision is to ensure they’re getting the full experience – from my measuring tape to the occasion. I’ve also been able to make 1-5 outfits a day, and this has come with experience.

What can we expect from your collection for PFFS?
I’ve made a summer collection full of colour and style! The collection is called NOA, and every piece is named after and inspired by the women in my family – La’aina, Margaret, Georgina, Cynthia, Lu’isa, Fehi, Lita and Noa. The reason being that as our first fashion show, we wanted to give it back to where it all began, family. So, each piece reflects the women we know best – their personalities and personal styles. We hope that our audience can resonate with our pieces and see themselves in it!

How important is it for Pacific people to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?
It is so important that Pacific people support one another to do good and succeed in our individual endeavours. We’re capable of taking our creativity and talent to another level, we just need to be there for each other. I would hope that my community looks at what I make and feel like they can join me, there is space for everyone.

What are your plans for your brand and where do you see it heading?
I hope that we can continue to reach new heights as a brand, and I’d like to see my audience and network grow so that I can continue to do what I love & give back to my community.

PFFS designer interview MASC

Exclusive sneak preview from MASC PFFS collection.

MASC

Designer – Sam Samau

Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
My personal style is very experimental yet comfortable and fun. The reason I say this is because I create depending on my mood “am I feeling feminine or masculine today”. My style is a mixture of both energies which allows me to express  my personal style. If I wanted to wear a skirt and feel masculine today then I would do so.

What inspires you?
My family inspires me the most. The purpose of why we migrated to New Zealand for a better education and  opportunities. The sacrifices that my parents have made for us to live a better life inspires me to be the greatest at what I do in my career pathway in hoping to give back to them.

What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion to me is about expressing who you are as a person. It’s about feeling good inside out and being able to project that energy out to the world. Fashion to me is being unapologetic, being able to live your true authentic self, ,allowing yourself to have fun with no care about others opinions

What is the process like for making your garments and how long does it take you?
My process for making garments is always changing. During the process I could be changing the design along the way of making it. My ideas are on going so no matter what I’m working on new ideas flow right through making the design process longer than it should. A design of mine can take a day of making but due to me always changing the design through the process it’ll take at least 2 to 3 days to make, execute and reject my ideas.

What can we expect from your collection for PFFS?
My collection this year is called “KOOL-fOBS”, this collection gives more options for our pacific men to choose from. My collection focuses on merging urban and Pacific wear for the men of our Pacific pushing the toxic boundaries of clothing in hopes that through enriching the style of our cultural attire like the ie faitaga (skirt) making it KOOL with an urban twist. It encourages PI men to wear skirts as an option for their everyday wear and feel liberated and stylish. Inspired by the ie faitaga this gives a reason why men can wear whatever they want without being judged by our own people. Playing with colours and patterns will give a different dynamic to a more elevated style to an everyday wear making it more accepting to the eyes of others.

How important is it for Pacific people to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?
It is very important for our people to uplift each other because without the support we won’t be able to showcase what we are capable of doing. We Pacific people have so much to offer to the world that creating these opportunities will allow us to create other career pathways for up and coming designers who are also wanting to create art in any shape or form.

What are your plans for your brand and where do you see it heading?
My plans for my brand is to continue breaking boundaries within our pacific community in hopes to make fashion as a career pathway for the young generation. I want to be able to break toxic masculinity through clothes giving freedom of choice to what we wear as Pacific men. I would love to see my brand grow and would get them produced offshore in the islands giving job opportunities to the people in the Pacific.

PFFS designer interview XTRA BISH

Exclusive sneak preview from XTRA BISH PFFS collection.

XTRA BISH

Designers – Tulukava, Alimanisha and Rosa

What made you become a designer and how did you go about achieving it? 
Rosa: Well buying clothing that couldn’t fit us was the main reason so we decided to make our own. We all went to Sewtec we all met at Sewtec and from there we all decided to move to SIT in Invercargill where we got our Bachelor’s degree last year, we graduated and we came up here and we wanted to just do something different and do plus size extra wear, streetwear.

Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
Rosa: Our personal style is things that plus size people are afraid to wear and we want to push people to be like it’s ok to wear revealing stuff, adjustable stuff.

What inspires you?
Rosa: Plus size and the fact that we get to mix and match colours together and the outcome is really exciting. Especially at the end once the products made it comes up so extra.

What does fashion mean to you?
Alimanisha: It’s a piece of art, expressing yourself.

Rosa: Fashion to me is everything, it’s what I put on my body to show people how I feel at that time, that moment.

What is the process like for making your garments and how long does it take you?
Rosa: For us, making this collection for Pacific Fusion, we made it on Monday, we started it on Monday, we started making our collection of 10 on Monday and it’s Saturday. We like to work like that because we like the adrenaline and the rush and because if we were to work earlier we would change our mind constantly and get sick of the garment, so we like to work on our feet.

What can we expect from your collection for PFFS?
Tulukava: Bold colours, it’s just really colourful.

Rosa: We’ve all made stuff adjustable and to fit any size body especially curves.

How important is it for Pacific people to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?
Rosa: For me its respect, people say to respect you have to give it and I feel like it’s exactly the same as pushing one another up. You would want people to lift you up not bring you down. It means everything.

What are your plans for your brand and where do you see it heading?
Rosa: For now we just want to enter as many fashion shows as we possibly can to get our name out there and scope out our target market and see who will buy and then hopefully find a manufacturer to produce our garments and open up stores.

Images by Bright Sunday.

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