Nora Swann, founder of Pacific Fusion Fashion Show. Image supplied.
The Pacific Fusion Fashion Show (PFFS) is back for 2020 with it’s fifth outing, showcasing the best of Pacific style and talent. While it’s been a tumultuous year for many events, PFFS is excited to be going ahead in Wellington on 5th December 2020 with a digital event that will be streamed online. Event founder and entrepreneur, Nora Swann, is delighted to be showcasing the designs of 13 talented Pacific brands who will bring some fantastic fashion to the runway in a colourful display of creativity.
PFFS first launched in 2016, and has enjoyed great success with an enthusiastic reception each year enabling the event to grow it’s loyal following. The event has turned the spotlight on 50 emerging and established Pacific fashion designers in that time who have each shared their unique take on fashion with passionate fashion fans. Being able to showcase their collections in this way has helped many emerging designers gain confidence in their approach and has helped further their careers through the event. It’s not just the designers either, the models and creative teams have all enjoyed and benefitted from the opportunities enabled by PFFS’.
This year we’re excited to announce that FashioNZ is a media partner for PFFS and we will be bringing you all the action from the runway live on the night. In the lead-in we’ll also be sharing the stories of the designers and giving you a preview of the amazing Pacific fashion you can expect to see on the night. FashioNZ has been sharing stories from PFFS with you since the beginning and we’re thrilled to be more involved this year and can’t wait to bring you coverage of this year’s event.
First up, we’d like to share with you the full list of PFFS 2020 designers which includes:
MAKKE, XTRABISH, Dane Dagger, OHN, CNDA by Jacinda Prictor, Vai & Co, FOU CUSTOMMADE, TAV, VAI, KQTA KQULTURE, NZSAF, SEI ORIANA and MASC by Sam Ioane Samau. Each of these brands will bring their own unique style to the runway and we can’t wait to see what they present.
In the lead-in to PFFS 2020, we caught up with founder Nora Swann to find out more about her journey with the Pacific Fusion Fashion Show, what inspires her and why it’s important for Pacific people to lift each other up?
Congratulations on five years of the Pacific Fusion Fashion Show, how did the event initially come about and what has the response been like so far?
PFFS was created to allow Pacific designers to have free reign of their creativity in the fashion industry. I got tired of being put in a box and having limited options of clothing available due to seasonal trends forecasted by others, and then having to see the same trends on the runway.
I wanted Pacific Fusion Fashion Show to showcase the beauty of Pacific design and allow the designers the freedom to share their stories not only through their collections, but through the models who wore their garments, the accessories the models adorn to complement their garments and the music that guides the models down the runway celebrating the designer’s creations.
Can you tell us a bit about what to expect from the event this year?
What I’ve seen on the PFFS platform over time has definitely evolved. Every year, the designers are bolder with their choice of textures, mix of colour palettes and clash of styles. We’re expecting to see the infused Pacific and Western influence on the runway but the beauty of the Pacific designs lie in the finer detail. i.e. the inspiration behind the collection, the story of the family members who stayed up late to help sew on buttons, the importance of cultural representation through the incorporation of harakeke (flax) weaved into garments etc. It is becoming well known that the sentimental connection in the designers’ collections are as equally important as what you physically see on the runway.
Pacific Fusion Fashion Show. Image supplied.
Every event organiser needs a supportive team to help them get everything done, can you tell us about your team and the people and partnerships that are helping bring the event to life?
We have been extremely blessed to still be able to run our event this year considering what has happened with Covid-19. We are grateful to all our partners this year, in particular our main partners – Pacific Cooperation Foundation for our fashion event and the Ministry of Social Development for the Dressed in Confidence Wellness Week. Without our partners contributions we would not be able to celebrate 5 years of Pacific Fusion Fashion Show so I am very grateful for their support.
In addition, there are a handful of ladies who have been helping me since day one, who work tirelessly behind the scenes to do what needs to be done, from liaising with our designers, models, suppliers and volunteers. All these ladies have other commitments – work, family and other activities, however are able to still dedicate their precious time to help me bring this event to life. It’s really hard to not only find but also keep amazing people in your inner circle so I have truly been blessed with my team.
How has your upbringing, culture and identity shaped how you view and have handled the fashion industry and how do you keep it in perspective?
In regards to my own personal style, it has been a ‘pushing the boundary’ experience for most of my life – LOL. I grew up in a traditional Samoan household so as you can imagine I would always get sent back to my bedroom by my mother to change my outfit I had put together. It was either too short, not part of the uniform or too experimental.
Now as an adult I am quite comfortable with my personal style and my husband just sees it as ‘me being me’. I have two daughters and one of them is quite experimental in her fashion sense and the other is more casual however she knows what she likes so I see snippets of me in both of them.
In terms of my work, I have run fashion shows and fashion projects at Botany Town Centre, North West Shopping Centre, Hunters Plaza Shopping Centre and Westfield Manukau and I had to learn to follow the client’s requests in terms of what was to be showcased, following seasonal trends etc. and I found it quite challenging not only because I’m an entrepreneur who likes to do what she pleases (lol) but because my own personal style was quite flamboyant and some of the looks I had created would get declined because it didn’t fit the marketing plan. However, I enjoyed every experience as I continuously learnt and grew from these opportunities.
At the end of the day, I love working in fashion and meeting a lot of talented people in the industry because they all somehow add to my own creativity which I am grateful for.
How important is it for Pacific people to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?
Pacific people are a minority here in NZ and so I believe it is important that Pacific people in the fashion industry work together so we can collaboratively create a strong representation of Pacific fashion to the mainstream audience.
As Pacific people we have a strong sense of community and we have always depended on our community not only as our safety net but also as our guides that give us the confidence to make the best decisions. Pacific representation in mainstream fashion is important as it inspires and uplifts not only our people currently in fashion and beauty but those coming through to continue to work in this industry and to contribute to the conversations that matter.
What inspires you?
People who are comfortable in their own skin and lead their lives with honesty and integrity. Life is full of so many obstacles so I tend to gravitate towards people who radiate this type of positive energy as they both inspire and remind me that this is also the type of lifestyle that I want to lead.
Nora Swann, founder of Pacific Fusion Fashion Show. Image supplied.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Next month marks 9 years in business for me and in reflection it would have to be the fact that I have tried my very best to stay authentic to my personal values and beliefs of ’embracing and celebrating who we are as individuals’ especially whilst working in the fashion industry. I believe my purpose in life is to redefine the definition of beauty in fashion and this message has been clear and consistent throughout my journey as a creative entrepreneur whether it’s my Personal Styling services I offer, Pacific Fusion Fashion Show, my Dressed in Confidence wellness programme and the Swann Modelling Agency where I advocate for diversity in the fashion industry.
How do you personally define success and what does it mean to you?
Success to me is finding your purpose in life and working towards fulfilling that purpose. I’d like to leave this earth knowing that I lived a life full of meaning and I didn’t just ‘exist’. And that I lived every day fulfilling my dreams, creating new goals both big and small and then achieving them also, living happily with my family and also giving back to my community where I could.
Also having FREEDOM. Financial freedom so my family and I can do what we want to do, to be free of my thoughts and not care what others think and the freedom to choose my path in life.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that you keep referring back to?
Trust in God wholeheartedly.
I have experienced first-hand the power of God and how if we are faithful to his word he will protect and guard us.
As a creative entrepreneur there have been so many rewards throughout my journey but they have not come easily. I have been challenged many times and it would have been so easy to go into defence mode and attack however as a Christian woman, I have learnt to give my problems to God and as a result I have been able to come out of difficult situations stronger and have learnt so much from these incidents as well.
What are your goals for the future?
I’ve recently been blessed by my local board – Otara Papatoetoe Local Board with a space for my wellness centre that I wanted to establish in South Auckland and am excitedly working towards moving in hopefully before Christmas.
I’ve been running my Dressed in Confidence Wellness Programme for 5 years now throughout Auckland predominantly working with Maori and Pacific students and the programme teaches self-love with fashion as the medium. I originally started out in schools but now bespoke versions of the programme have been created and the programme has been successfully running in fashion, beauty, construction, recruitment, community and the corporate industries. I have also just recently been booked to run my programme in the hospitality and packaging industries. In addition, I have recently announced for my Mama + Me programme to start early next year with the focus on building the relationship between mums and their children. I am hoping this will be my first programme to be run out of my wellness centre and am working on training new staff as the programme grows.
Ultimately I’d like to have my Dressed in Confidence centres setup throughout the country and also in the Pacific Region. Last year I was blessed to be one of two keynote speakers at the Solomon Islands Fashion Week where I shared the stage with Prime Minister Manaseh Sogavare. I also ran my Dressed in Confidence programme there as part of Solomon Fashion Week where my students varied from fashion designers, models, youth entrepreneurs and students with special needs. It was such a special opportunity to teach the students the importance of self-love and how it can help you reach your full potential.
I’d also love for Pacific Fusion Fashion Show to be added to the NZ calendar as a highly anticipated fashion event such as New Zealand Fashion Week. Our event continues to grow each year and attract designers and models from across the Pacific which has been fantastic. Last year we had Afa Ah Loo from Utah, America and Ari South of Hawaii showcase in our event who were both contestants on America’s Bravo’s Project Runway reality TV show.