Introducing PFFS Designers – Sei Oriana, MAKKE, KQTA KQULTURE, NZSAF and Tanoa

Pacific Fusion Fashion Show 2020 is happening this Saturday 5th December and this week we’re going to introduce you to the last group of 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 via PFFS, Coconet TV and our Facebook page. In the meantime we’d like to introduce you to Sei Oriana, MAKKE, KQTA KQULTURE, NZSAF and Tanoa.

PFFS designer interviews

Exclusive sneak preview from Sei Oriana PFFS collection. Image by Bright Sunday.

Sei Oriana

Designer – Melisa Stanley

What made you become a designer and how did you go about achieving it?
Sei Oriana Gift Shop is a hub that houses an array of work from different designers, one of our main goals as a fashion store, is to produce garments from the fabric that we sell in our shop for two reasons. The first is to recycle our textiles, and second, is to come up with patterns and designs to show the customer what they can do with the fabric we sell in store.

Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
We cater specifically to the Pacific Island style, as the majority of our customer are Island Women, we design our garments according to the style our Pasifika women like, as well as making sure the patterns match the fabric we currently stock.

What inspires you?
Pacific Culture, colours and vibes of the Pacific.

What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion is first and foremost a personal statement of who you are as a person.

What is the process like for making your garments and how long does it take you?
It’s a collaboration between us and our dress makers, we will come up with the design, find what’s trendy and have a conversation with the talented people that put it together.

What can we expect from your collection for PFFS?
Bright colours, trendy streetwear, attainable and wearable clothing.

How important is it for Pacific people to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?
I think it’s very important if not vital to the survival of Pasifika businesses. Sei Oriana Gift Shop has from the beginning, shown its support by collaboration with many local pacific island SME’s in NZ, and across the Pacific, to date we have paid over $200K to local Pacifica businesses by purchasing products to showcase and promote at our shop.

What are your plans for your brand and where do you see it heading?
We will be focusing more on producing our own brand and diversify our range. We need to work on being more proficient and keep up with the demand of attainable fashion, we also need to work smarter in regards to recycling our fabric into fashionable and wearable clothing.

PFFS designer interviews

Exclusive sneak preview from MAKKE PFFS collection.

MAKKE – pronounced Maggie, the K’s represent Maggie’s Cook Island Heritage (KuKi Airani)

Designer – Maggie Anitelea

What made you become a designer and how did you go about achieving it?
I think Fashion Design has always been in my blood as I can remember recreating Wonder Woman outfits and the famous armbands out of paper when I was 5! Looking back I can recollect times when I would create garments for the School Ball, School Fashion Shows and entered events like Style Pasifika. I always considered fashion design to be a favourite hobby and would design when I had time or a purpose. Now, after seeing my first collection come to life I know this is what I want to do and will continue to do what I love.

Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
My personal style is reflective of my personality and my Cook Islands heritage e.g. Dance, Costume, Flora and People. I love bright colours, bold prints, pleats and frills, lots of flare and movement. I enjoy pushing the boundaries with fashion, for example taking the classic Muumuu our Mamas love to wear to an extravagant colourful piece fit for the Grammys! Even though I love that aesthetic it doesn’t limit what other avenues I enjoy designing like a bad-ass Mad-Max avant-garde look to a more sophisticated Jackie-O influenced gown.

What inspires you?
Strength, bravery, honesty and passion. This can represent itself in one’s actions, goals, words, a song, a picture, nature and memories. Covid presented its challenges for my little family however it turned out to be such a blessing in disguise. Yes, I’m no longer in the travel industry that I enjoyed but it opened opportunities for me to really pursue my true passions. My Inspirations this journey is my family. My husband Joe has definitely been my rock, sometimes mannequin/model lol, professional un-picker and shoulder to sleep on. I am very fortunate to have a strong family that supports me 100%. They keep me grounded and make me laugh.

What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion means expression. Being free to express whatever the hell you want to express. If it makes you feel empowered, sexy or beautiful and you love it, then it’s right. I love seeing how my designs make the individuals feel in it. It is validation for your creation and hard work.

What is the process like for making your garments and how long does it take you?
I did not have any training at a sewing or fashion school and my last sewing class was at Intermediate where I made a pair of shorts (Jams). Regardless, I am so proud that I am self-taught, it validates that I do love fashion design and to see the finished product is even more humbling. One garment can take 1-3 days depending on style. This journey has taken a little longer as I have created my own fabric by screen printing my original KK-patterns and flora designs representing my Cook Island culture (Kuki Airani).

What can we expect from your collection for PFFS?
Lots of frilly-drama, colour, flare, confidence and sass!

The collection is called “That Girl”. You want to be ‘that girl’ who feels the prettiest at the party, ‘that girl’ who feels the most elegant on the Red Carpet, ‘that girl’ who feels so beautiful and bad-ass you turn heads. Actually, my collection represents all of us ‘girls’!

How important is it for Pacific people to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?
It is 100% important! Without giving or receiving that support and encouragement we would not be on the platforms we see today. As a proud Polynesian woman, I have dedicated years of my life to tutoring and mentoring my Cook Islands culture and its art forms to others so they feel empowered to begin their own journeys. Not only is it important to maintain our Cultural identity for our futures, this journey is a testament that through lifting each other up (PFFS) it empowers designers like myself to strive.

What are your plans for your brand and where do you see it heading?
I always thought that the goal was to go commercial, however to be honest, I love the thought of knowing that every garment I have ever designed has been one of a kind. My prints, my choice of colours and style, one of a kind in the world. This collection has definitely cemented this for me so I will continue to do single pieces and my clients can be assured that nobody else in the world has the same. I’m just waiting for my girls Beyonce and JLo to call me for that ‘one of a kind’ red carpet look!`

PFFS designer interviews

Exclusive sneak preview from KQTA KQULTURE PFFS collection.


Designer – Niquita Samuel

Ko Tainui tōku waka
Ko Waipa tōku awa
Ko Kakepuku tōku maunga
Ko Te Kopua tōku marae
Ko Ngāti Haua tōku hāpū
Ko Ngāti Maniapoto tōku iwi
Ko Joel Samuel tōku pāpā
Ko Cushla Hughes tōku māmā
Ko Niquita Samuel tōku ingoa
Tihei mauri ora!

What made you become a designer and how did you go about achieving it?
I am a dedicated mother of two beautiful children, an active gym enthusiast and always busy creating a range of Māori inspired kaakahu that represents my strength and mana. By designing Māori avant-garde pieces, it brings out a different creative side in me. These pieces are part of my unique collection dedicated and in remembrance of my grandmother Polly Ngaika Hemara Samuel who helped raised and blessed me with my name “Niquita”, she sadly passed away last year and I am always reminded of her when I see my collection on the runway, she always told me “If you got it, flaunt it!”.

Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
“Kqulture Encounters couture” is our whaakaro influenced by our three principal values: Kaitiakitanga, whanaungatanga and Tino rangatiratanga.

I was raised by many stylish strong Nannies and Mothers – women within my whanau life and each wahine taught me knowledge and discipline on the marae. My style has developed to a “sophisticated māori-chic gangstah coco chanel encounters rococo vibe”. I am a Maximalist designer and design for myself everywhere and anywhere, personally I model all my collections and make adjustments and measurements to my size and develop my own unique style all upcycled 100% from recycled textiles. I am also told I work awesome under pressure.

What inspires you?
My concept is a circular fashion design kaupapa. I want to keep Papatūānuku free from chemical pollution and I draw inspiration from her to design sustainable clothing from unwanted, upcycled resources. It’s good for the environment, creative artist and especially good for the consumer. By designing in a circular fashion sense it is more sustainable and economical for the environment – papatuanuku.

What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion is innovative, sexy, fun, creative, timeless and it can bring out an individual’s mana and wairua when styled correctly to express one’s own authentic self and stage presence.

What is the process like for making your garments and how long does it take you?
Throughout my career I have developed a keen eye for detail creating original pieces as well as items following established trends. My goal is to create an exclusive form of design that each consumer can adapt to in order to freely express their own unique style showcasing my extravagant Māori inspired haute couture collection.

What can we expect from your collection for PFFS?
You will see my whakapapa within my Resurrection Collection 2020.

100% Circular fashion  #Team KQ #Fierceasf #Boujee #KQULTURE.

How important is it for indigenous people to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?
“He waka eke noa” – We are all in this together!”

For me it is very important to keep striving by showing gratitude everyday to everyone that has helped us on this journey especially by giving thanks to the almighty for blessing us all here today and to always remember where you come from and to be proud of who you are as an individual.

What are your plans for your brand and where do you see it heading?
Like all up and coming designers my dream is to establish my own business that will help further my designs and also help my children’s future My next plan was to participate and showcase a collection in London next year as I was invited as a Pacific designer, but with the unexpected return of Covid and the high expenses, I had to face reality and put my dream on hold and cancel my opportunity. But I didn’t give up on this vision I have of me with my collection so I kept going and decided to stay local and applied for this amazing kaupapa here in Aotearoa which has also been a massive dream come true for our brand and I’m so proud with all this amazing opportunity I am just so truly grateful to be here today to tautoko this empowering event. It has been so amazing to be apart of so many life changing events this year and I’m excited to keep doing more. Next year I will be studying towards my major in Fashion level 7 and I am set on completing my final year in my degree, I am a great believer in every single thing that has happened in my life, is preparing me for something bigger that’s meant to come and I am most grateful for this experience and tautoko (support) I have had from so many people that have assisted myself to reach this stage and that education is the key to success.

PFFS designer interviews

Exclusive sneak preview from NZSAF PFFS collection.

New Zealand School of Art and Fashion (NZSAF)

Student designers – Phil Heketoa, Leslie Nanai, Foreist Kukutai and Elijah Tutini

What made you become a designer and how did you go about achieving it?
Phil: My background is in teaching makeup and special effects so I took a gap year and I’ll probably take two gap years to up skill and design the costumes so when I’m fully qualified I can go back into my industry. I’d like to go back into wardrobe and design on set for TV and film so that’s where I’m starting right now on my journey.

Leslie: I come from a very creative family and I’ve always loved to create beautiful things. For designing clothing, I think it was just having to make unique garments for my own family and friends and receiving genuine positive feedback and then wanting to expand on that. That’s part of the reason why I decided to quit my full time job and go into study at NZSAF.

Foreist: I’ve always enjoyed dressing up and fashion and also making costumes and wearing costumes and all that, it’s kind of, it’s like a step towards doing that more and broadening my horizons I guess. I just want to find something that I’m passionate about and it’s here.

Elijah: So I don’t even know if I want to be a designer, I think at this stage I’m looking at becoming a pattern maker. Just because my style of clothing is very ready to wear, it’s not super out there but it’s very functional. I think the functionality is what I want to go into so having it fit perfectly and understanding patterns is where I want to progress.

Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
Phil: There are two things when I’m designing, one is feel, how it feels for me and if I like it because at the end of the day I have to be happy with it and the garment is kind of like your business card, that’s basically you and somebody wearing you. I like stuff that’s a little to the left, you know that cousin or aunty and they’re a little bit like they wear anything they want but they feel super comfortable, that’s me, that’s her, so I like that kind of point of difference, not afraid to walk on their own, not necessarily a follower but enjoys her own journey.

Leslie: My personal style is anything that makes me feel comfortable with a balance of modest vs sexy. As a designer I’m able to recognise a design pattern that fits the curves of the wearer’s  body no matter our shape and size, and that’s particularly important for us plus size females. I design to ensure the wearer is comfortable and that the garment will accentuate our body parts we love, and make us feel classy and confident. Classic clean lines and pops of surprises, everything is all in the detail.

Foreist: Very much black and red, I quite like alternative fashion as well and gender is irrelevant with the way that I like to dress and style myself, kind of dress to how I feel on the day. Gender identity is quite big for me so fashion helps with that.

Elijah: I’d say I’m definitely into streetwear maybe a bit more high end, and I’m very interested in fit and function so I want it to be versatile, and something that you can hand down for generations. I love reversible clothing, and I put plenty of pockets in my clothing, which is tedious but I want my clothing to just be something that I can wear all the time.

What inspires you?
Phil: In the very beginning you know with what the world is going through I didn’t really care about what was going on in the world as long as I looked good and it sounds a little selfish but I really just wanted to look good and feel good as well. So, it’s also just reminding us as people you know no matter what’s going on in the world that we can still be ourselves, you know we don’t have to follow what’s going on, that you can still walk your own path and dress and feel good and look good as well.

Leslie: My surroundings, people and my Heritage. I love nature, a lot of my designs incorporate nature or a story in some way or form either by print or a type of fabric manipulation.

Foreist: I’m quite inspired by music like K-pop and rock bands and things like that, quite heavily inspiring for me.

Elijah: I’d have to say the biggest one is my family, just even pretty much directly ripping off what they used to wear to work or what the couch at nana’s used to look like, that inspires me a lot which is pretty funny to say that nana’s old couch inspired me. But also I think niche clothing that is very intensive, it’s not marketed to everybody, and they put a lot of unnecessary care into things and doing things in a more tedious manner because of stubbornness to a vision.

What is the process like for making your garments and how long does it take you?
Phil: I’m in week 11 so this is all new to me because my background is in makeup, hair and special effects so I know what looks good and so this whole process is amazing, like I didn’t know that I could talk the talk with other designers and with my tutors. I’m really grateful I’m in the right place and I’m surrounded by tutors who are guiding and nurturing me on the journey. So for right now it’s excellent awesome, awesome, awesome.

Leslie: I really try to structure my design process, but no matter how many times I try to do that I always end up finishing it at the last minute. I think of a design, sketch it out and start making up the pattern, but once I do the fittings it’s at that point I decide, oh maybe I should add this and change that and I’m always thinking how I can make it better, so the whole time the design and the garment is evolving to the point I’m still working on it right at the end.

Foreist: I’m terrible at planning things out and structure so I kind of just go with the flow and see where it takes me honestly but procrastination’s key, even though I ended up finishing last minute because of it, we get there.

Elijah: For me a big part of it is seeing the fabric, so I love going fabric shopping and feeling the fabrics and that usually sparks an idea and I just develop from there. It’s pretty inefficient at times because I’ll find a fabric that sparks a look, get back to the drawing board and be like oh need to go fabric shopping again. So, yeah fabric’s the big one for me that just sparks it all off.

What can we expect from your collection for PFFS?
Phil: I like pops of colour so if you want to feel good about the garments that I’m wearing, if you want to stand out, if you just want to be a show stopper and stand out or be different from everyone else that’s probably my collection right now. The mood that I’m in right now.

Foreist: A lot of red and a lot of black, something very much my style, androgyny, it’s very women wanting to feel empowered and on top of the world and like they’re running things. Feeling good in your own skin.

Leslie: I think you’ll definitely see my style when you see my collection. What to expect; modern but classic, vintage and elegant beauty with a touch of Pacific in each look.

Elijah: I guess they’re all looks that you wouldn’t find out of place on the street, but hopefully they’ll still turn heads, so it’s basically just streetwear elevated. And you can expect grandma’s couch turned into clothing.

How important is it for Pacific people to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?
Phil: I’m just so proud.

Leslie: It’s definitely important but we can only do it together. As a Cook Islander, well in general for all of our Pacific nations we don’t do it enough, and it’s so good to have initiatives like PFFS to elevate all of us on a higher platform to celebrate our successes no matter how big or small it may be. I’m truly thankful for these kinds of opportunities and the people behind them.

Foreist: It means quite a bit because a lot of the time things are the opposite sometimes in society where we’re kind of pushed to the side instead of lifted up and shown to the world. It feels good to see indigenous people being there for each other, it feels really, really good.

Elijah: It is critical that these opportunities are available because I’m sure you guys can relate but our parents have given up and sacrificed so much, my nana’s one of my biggest inspirations, she worked as a machinist for quite a while and just showing her my looks to her the other day and to see how proud she was, she was moved to tears, she was like ‘oh boy I could never make something like this’ and I just never thought this was something I could do. It’s so cool to see my whole family proud of me for doing well in something I’m passionate about. I originally studied Accounting and I thought I was just going to make money and pursue my passions later, but having this opportunity allows me to feel satisfied in ditching accounting for fashion.

What are your plans for your brand and where do you see it heading?
Phil: Right now the goal was to go back into TV and film and work in wardrobe but I’m really liking, enjoying this new journey in fashion I guess, so fingers crossed wherever God puts me, wherever I’m supposed to go. I hope its multi, you know I want to be more than just a designer, I like to think that culturally we’re so underrated and have so much more to offer that is different to what’s going out there. So, if we keep doing what we’re doing and going hard, that’s the path and the dream I want to keep going on.

Leslie: I just want to keep developing what I’ve learnt so far, experimenting and trying new things with fashion and design. Eventually I will want to have my own label and represent Cook Islands and our Pacific fashion culture to the world.

Foreist: I’m not 100% sure yet, I love this experience, it’s kind of pushing me towards doing something like this as a career option and I kind of want to bring something a little different to what you always see on the streets of New Zealand and maybe even take it further than that.

Elijah: I definitely want to start up my own brand with my brother, he’s also a creative but he’s more on the illustration and design side. I think a big part of what I want to do, quite far down the track, is to be able to provide opportunities to other Pasifika and Māori people. Starting with keeping production in New Zealand. I hope to encourage our people to pursue their passions which is often very difficult when you have a duty to support your family and so you often think about money first.

PFFS designer interviews

Exclusive sneak preview from Tanoa PFFS collection.


Co-owners Aaron Forsgren and Bruce Leiataua

From the beginning the focus at Tanoa was to engage local Samoan and Polynesian artists and designers to help develop and grow the products and the brand. Promoting the Polynesian heritage in a big city.

They create a variety of clothing items made and inspired by Polynesian people, Tanoa has something for everyone.

From casual street wear to formal wedding attire – the range caters to a wide selection of styles for our Pacific communities. “Keeping it real” is the philosophy behind the brand, and can be seen in the styles and designs. Tanoa has grown to reach a large international audience but its heart will always be in the Pacific.

Images by Bright Sunday.

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