Fiji poised to be Pacific's fashion capital

2016-11-04T00:00:00Z

Suva could become the Fashion capital not just of Fiji, but also of the Pacific says Faraz Ali, Chairman of the Fashion Council of Fiji.  Mr Ali shared his thoughts with <em>Pacific Periscope</em> in an email interview on the state of Fiji’s fashion and its future.<!--more-->

[caption id="attachment_14001" align="alignleft" width="300"]<img class="size-medium wp-image-14001" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/rsz_fijifashion-300x251.jpg" alt="“Suva is the economic, political and cultural centre of our region - a Pacific New York is perhaps the best way to describe it,” says Faraz Ali, Chairman of the Fashion Council of Fiji." width="300" height="251" /> “Suva is the economic, political and cultural centre of our region - a Pacific New York is perhaps the best way to describe it,” says Faraz Ali, Chairman of the Fashion Council of Fiji.[/caption]

Mr Ali is the editor of Fiji’s first luxury fashion and lifestyle publication – MaiLife STYLE (2015) and one of the Pacific’s “premier stylists and artistic directors.”

[caption id="attachment_14002" align="alignright" width="80"]<img class="size-full wp-image-14002" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/rsz_rsz_2faraz_ali_pic.jpg" alt="Faraz Ali is Chairman of the Fashion Council of Fiji and also Editor of Fiji’s first luxury fashion and lifestyle publication – MaiLife STYLE." width="80" height="95" /> Faraz Ali is Chairman of the Fashion Council of Fiji and also Editor of Fiji’s first luxury fashion and lifestyle publication – MaiLife STYLE.[/caption]

“Suva is the economic, political and cultural centre of our region - a Pacific New York is perhaps the best way to describe it,” he said.

“Ultimately all fashion houses would see their establishment in Suva, regardless of their country of origin. The global fashion industry is a multibillion dollar industry - there is room for us all, however a central focus is needed, a hub that the world can look to for fashion innovation and the development of a unique identity in our region - this focus needs to be Suva,” he added.

Two major Pacific Island fashion houses have either moved their manufacturing to Fiji, or were considering it. Mr Ali said two regional labels were currently manufacturing garments in Fiji.

“MENA is Samoa’s primary fashion export, and TAV, the Cook Island’s. But the Fijian fashion industry is much broader and already has a wide reach from multiple designers. The Council is of the opinion that Suva is the fashion capital, not just of Fiji, but also of the Pacific,” he said. “The future is Suva, and in time the Fashion Council of Fiji will come to represent all designers from our region, as the largest production centre is and will continue to be Fiji.”

Mr Ali was elected FCF Chairman in 2014. The council was started in 2010 by a group of Fiji’s fashion experts to represent the whole industry. A report in Fiji Online (April 2014) described him as “a seasoned stylist and creative consultant with local (Fiji) credits including the campaigns of local fashion designers Naina and Robert Kennedy.”

A premium model manager, he had also worked as an art dealer, curator and publican. Mr Ali graduated from the University of Sydney with majors in Economics and Performance Studies.

[caption id="attachment_14003" align="alignleft" width="153"]<img class="size-medium wp-image-14003" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/rsz_fcf_photo_1-153x300.jpg" alt="Two major Pacific Island fashion houses have either moved their manufacturing to Fiji, or were considering it. " width="153" height="300" /> Two major Pacific Island fashion houses have either moved their manufacturing to Fiji, or were considering it.[/caption]

The Fashion Council represents, advocates for, and administers training for the nascent but fast growing Fijian fashion industry, Mr Ali said. It uses three key events to promote the industry: Fiji Fashion Week, Project Jejemon and Style Fiji.

“We have for many years had representation of the garment, textile and footwear industries. However, the mode of operation for those traditional and valuable businesses was the receipt of international orders, and the export of product, for value to then be added at the point of destination by way of branding.”

The Fashion industry, by contrast, seeks to add value through the development of recognisable brands locally before export. However, the establishment of reliable brands is not possible without proper access to training, financial support, access to external markets, and Government support. It is important that the fashion industry receives recognition as a future growth industry, he said.

Considering the general growth cycle of businesses - it is not a leap to believe that Fijian fashion designers will one day be the clients of Fijian garment factories, and the various other facets that make up the TCF Council. But there is a wide scope for the Fashion industry in Fiji said Mr Ali.

“Beyond fashion design, our industry is made up of various other equally significant players - stylists, photographers, bloggers, fashion media, and so forth. With such a broad base, our industry will not only become increasingly significant for the TCF sector, but indeed for our country as a whole.”

Over the years the Council has been instrumental in injecting renewed life into the industry, and indeed has in recent times become its driving force.

[caption id="attachment_14004" align="alignright" width="300"]<img class="size-medium wp-image-14004" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/rsz_fcf_photo_3-300x283.jpg" alt="Over the years the Council has been instrumental in injecting renewed life into the industry, and indeed has in recent times become its driving force, Mr Ali says." width="300" height="283" /> Over the years the Council has been instrumental in injecting renewed life into the industry, and indeed has in recent times become its driving force, Mr Ali says.[/caption]

“With increased council visibility, we embarked on a heavy and sustained marketing and PR campaign. In 2015 carrying on into 2016 with the support of the <em>Fiji Times</em> through official sponsorship and other local and regional news agencies also has come growing appreciation for the Fijian industry as a whole,” he said.

“It is important to note that we have always had fashion in Fiji, but the development of the sector has been hampered by successive political disturbances. However, we are now seeing sustained growth, and in the fashion retail sector are experiencing a renaissance with the establishment of stand-alone designer boutiques, independent multi designer boutiques, designer studios, a move from made-to-measure to ready-to-wear, a booming wedding market (dress, styling and photography), the release of fashion media publication, as well as mainstream media becoming more media savvy - the list of developments is endless.”

Mr Ali commended the growing awareness of fashion and good design among Fijians. “Perhaps what is most promising is the development of the market - it is not a stretch to say that our major population centres house the most fashion conscious people in the Pacific. Tastes are evolving to form a uniquely Fijian contemporary fashion understanding. Naturally, without this it is impossible to develop an industry - the market dictates our growth,” he said.

Mr Ali said there were no statistics available on the Fijian fashion industry. However, the council is in the process of commissioning the University of the South Pacific to collect data.
Despite the devastation caused by Cyclone Winston in some areas, the major population centres or areas of major economic activity -- particularly relating to the fashion industry - Suva to Lautoka along the Queens Road -- seem to have fortunately been spared of its fury, Mr Ali said. The one major effect was shifting of key events on the calendar, such as Fiji Fashion Week. That in turn threw off the production schedule for many designers.

“The council is looking at mitigating this by operating smaller buyer shows in the month of May (our traditional Spring/Summer showing season). The reason for the shift is respect for those affected by the devastation of the cyclone. Council however is not shifting the training calendar for the year and continues to advocate for government funding for an incubator for the full development of the industry,” he said.

Although Mr Ali acknowledged a lack of basic training in the Textile, Clothing and Footwear (TCF) sectors, the fashion industry currently does not have government support, though he said the council was confident that the Minister for Trade would more fully support their efforts in the next financial year. Mr Ali is also an advocate for training across the board as it would lead to improved quality, which increases Fiji’s competitiveness in external markets.

For more information please contact Joe Fuavao, PT&amp;I NZ Trade Development Officer email: <a href="mailto:joe.f@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz">joe.f@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz</a>

<em><strong>Photo credits:</strong></em>
<em><strong>Stylist and Art Director: Faraz Ali</strong></em>
<em><strong>Photographer: Ilai Jikoiono</strong></em>
<em><strong>Creative consultancy:  Fuzz&amp;Ilai</strong></em>

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