Review: Fiji Fashion Week Launch 2011

A few days ago my partner (also official Kindness by Design photographer) & I excitedly attended the launch of Fiji Fashion Week (FJFW) 2011 here in Suva. The venue was the top floor of the relatively new shopping center, Tappoo City, based in the CBD. The look was very much ‘warehouse-chic’!

Enjoying a welcome drink at the top of Tappoo City – think warehouse-chic….industrial aesthetic

Without further ado I proceeded to pounce on designers, models & fashion industry representatives alike. First up was young emerging designer Suzie Zhong. 
Fijian designer Suzie Zhong
Suzie participated in FJFW2010 with partner Josh Mataitoga under their label JeStoudir Designs where they were awarded the title of Most Promising Designers & rewarded with an internship at Australian fashion label Kookai. You can watch their catwalk show as seen on Fashion TV. This year Suzie is entering FJFW as a solo act with a new collection that she has described as “a modernisation of the 1960s look”. At only 19 years, Suzie already has a strong vision of what she wants to create. When asked why the aesthetic of 60s fashion appealed to her she explained “…it’s really classic & feminine”.  Suzie started experimenting with design when she was still attending high school. After winning a prize for her collection “Simplicity” she set her sights on FJFW.
Suzie Zhong & Josh Mataitoga – Winners of FJFW2010 Most Promising Designers (Photo credit: FJFW)

When asked what it was like to be an emerging designer in Fiji, Suzie replied “It’s challenging because Fiji lacks materials & we don’t have a Fashion School, so it’s very hard for us to develop the skills…it’s very challenging”. So what does the future hold for Suzie Zhong? I’d say it holds a great deal! Post-FJFW she hopes to start selling her clothes online & looking for opportunities to branch out into more avant-garde, fashion forward collections as opposed to the more market-driven ready-to-wear focus currently dominating in Fiji. She’s also keen to incorporate more ecologically friendly materials & processes into her work. Suzie argues “Fashion is still getting to be known in Fiji”. I look forward to seeing Suzie’s collection later in the season.  

FJFW guest wearing an outfit by featured designer of the night Toni-Marie which would go nicely with my Urban Safari collection
Communing with the plants at FJFW ;o) I’m wearing a dress from Jacks of Fiji
Fantastic looking shoes worn by FJFW guest
Loving this skirt! This couple described FJFW as “amazing”
Highlights from previous catwalk shows were projected around the room

One fun feature was the way that event sponsors were acknowledged. Each sponsor had a mannequin upon which to showcase their brand. 

DHL – Styled by Gwen Fong & Rachel Fairfax of Breeking Heels

The Fiji Times – Designed by Alex & Laisa of Lo-Ross & Atarah

Next up I ran into dynamic designer duo & high school friends, Alex Ligarai & Laisa Baxter from the label Lo-Ross & Atarah, who were a delight to talk to.  

Emerging designers Alex (far left) and Laisa (far right) with one of their models

This will be the pair’s first time at FJFW, with Lasia (a single mother & University student) explaining “We wanted to test our talents out & see how far we could come…so far, so good!”. Alex (a final year high school student) assured me that the collection they will be presenting this year will be extremely feminine with plenty of ruffles & cascades. 

I asked them how they managed to get into design in the first place. According to Alex the pair spent a great deal of time drawing at school and things evolved naturally from there. They remained tight lipped when I tried to pry out some details about their up-coming catwalk show. “It’s a surprise!” Laisa claimed with a mischievous grin.  

Loving this quirky black & white stripe cocktail dress with oversize hibiscus-inspired necklace

Catching up with Gwen Fong co-founder of Breaking Heels 
Having a chat with the other half of the Breaking Heels design team, Rachel Fairfax

After a great deal of mingling, testing of drinks & grazing of nibbles the official proceedings finally got underway (very much on Fiji time!). Managing Director of FJFW, Ellen Whippy-Knight gave the opening address. 

Ellen announced that the country’s first fashion & design certificate course will soon be available through Fiji National University (FNU), which is extremely good news for people of all ages who would like to become professional designers. She also expressed concern over how difficult it has been to secure sponsorship for FJFW. The concept that a strong fashion industry can do wonders for a national economy is only slowly seeping in to the Fijian business sector. 

Three fabulous Kookai dresses that were unveiled at the launch & worn by local models
Two of the three Kookai dresses – I like them both but would personally get more wear out of the  orange design, you need a special type of figure to pull off that clingy black material
Love this crisp white dress with the detailed neckline! Definitely belongs in my wardrobe

The guest speaker of the night was Rob Cromb, Managing Director of Australian fashion label Kookai. Mr Cromb proudly spoke of his own Fijian heritage, coming from the province of Bua. His inspiring speech emphasised the need for Fijian designers to be courageous & urged people to fully exploit the potential of selling local designs to international markets online. I got the distinct impression that this major player in fashion had every confidence in the creative talent residing in Fiji. 

Next on the program was a quick run-through of the design process from concept to catwalk. 

Last but not least was the mini fashion show featuring new designs from Fijian label Toni-Marie Resort Wear.  

The catwalk show got off to a unique start with a beautiful routine by some young dancers

Suddenly the music changed from soft & wistful to attitude & rock’n’roll…here come the models!

Resort wear meets glamazon punk!

Soft floral prints juxtaposed with dark eye makeup – love the colour scheme
Sheer fabrics were an essential part of this collection

Fantastic look for poolside cocktails!
Lovely dress, easy to dress up or down

Surprise surprise! My favourite piece is a resort-style playsuit! Love!

Designer Toni-Marie Compain (2nd from the right)

Highlights: The energy, enthusiasm & creativity of the designers, models & FJFW organisers. The rum punch cocktails were delicious. Moii Watkins for taking good care of us on the night. The speech by Rob Cromb from Kookai. 

Lowlights: Being told the sushi was vegetarian & then finding myself with a mouthful of chicken. Did…not…like. Also the fabulous looking pink drink appeared divine but tasted so blergh. 

Overall Verdict: This year’s FJFW is going to be amazing! I can’t wait to attend the shows & report back to you about the trends emerging in this fledgling fashion community!

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