Ironic as it is, Fiji Fashion Week’s first virtual show has provided designers with a more intimate setting to be able to express their style and products.
Moved onto the cyberspace by the lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions, FJFW is this week running its first online show with broadcasts on Fiji Television and on social media platforms simultaneously with corresponding digital initiatives on The Fiji Times and on Communications Fiji Ltd.
Initially scheduled for May, the FJFW 2021 edition, sponsored by Palmolive was meant to be a week-long affair with educational visits, cultural exchanges and charity initiatives in addition to three nights of shows.
Despite an earlier optimism that was followed by postponement, FJFW realised in late April the second wave of COVID-19 would be longer than expected and so a change of pace of modality was necessary.
Ellen Whippy-Knight who herself was meant to travel from Australia to coordinate and run the shows realised big changes had to happen.
“Everyone moved online and I followed fashion shows all over the world which had become virtual as well and who were doing it quite innovatively. I realised it didn’t have to be tokenism and that if the team took on the collective vision, we could do something amazing for our designers,” Ms Whippy-Knight said.
For three weeks, videos of 13 collections were shot in iconic tourist destinations and distinctive Suva locations.
A combined crew of 50 media production experts, models, hair and make up stylists and designers along with the FJFW finance and operations team travelled around Viti Levu through the changing phases of border restrictions.
Two collections were shot in Australia by designers from Fiji.
Hosanna Kabakoro, a Cakaudrove lass in her second year of FJFW was part of the 13 whose designs were shot on the Coral Coast at the Myola Plantation Village.
Inspired by the style on Suva’s streets, Kabakoro said she was overwhelmed when watching her show which aired on Day 2.
“Seeing the show on television and watching the work of not only my team but the FJFW planning and creative team, the camera and production crews, the models chair and makeup teams, was just spectacular,” Ms Kabakoro said.
“I think many thought that going virtual was a huge risk and a gamble. It was clearly evident this evening what a beautiful concept each designer has brought to the table. Everyone has been able to really showcase the beauty of their garments in a much more intimate environment, allowing people to feel very connected to each other’s designers and their clothing and their collections.”
Tourism and Trade Minister Faiyaz Koya attended the viewing party for Nadi-based designer Tracey Farrington who showed her first Fiji Made Resort Wear Collection on Day 2.
He said Fiji fashion wear created an expression extending beyond just fashion because the industry connects customers with a part of our unique culture and tradition which is symbolic. “In my role, I am constantly reminded about how well regarded Fiji is when it comes to fashion and the impact that Fijian designers and fashion retailers have brought to existence,” Koya said.
“In culture, innovation, fashion, and creativity we enjoy a unique advantage, we have great Fijian designers and brands — Duatani, NV Designs, House of Mausio, Robert Kennedy Fiji, Kuiviti Pacific and Hupfeld Hoerder Designs amongst others — which bring together a sense of place to create unique products.”
Tourism Fiji chief executive officer Brent Hill was also at the Farrington event and said he was a proud customer of the Fiji fashion brand. He hopes that over time, the tourism and fashion industries can grow the amount spent in Fiji by tourists a in turn grow the Fijian economy and diversify
and provide jobs and pathways for Fijians.
“I loved the show last night. It was so good seeing Fijian fashion being it’s own thing and that is colourful and adapted to our conditions which is undeniably islander,” Mr Hill said.
“From a tourism Fuhu perspective I want to always support Fiji.
“I want tourists to come here, be pleasantly surprised by how good our fashion, homewares and artisan products are and to take them home and we continue to develop our own identity globally.
“So, I loved it. I bought some pieces and I’m very proud to wear FijiMade.”
- LICE MOVONO is a freelance journalist and public relations consultant.