Fiji Fashion Week in doubt

Fashion Week in doubt

By Ellen Whippy-Knight
Saturday, April 27, 2013
The Fiji Times

The event is scheduled for October 1 and 5 in Suva but will not proceed unless extra funds can be found.

Whilst Fiji Fashion Week is deemed a success in terms of developing local designers, it has run at a loss because of huge production costs.

"We're now very reliant on support from our sponsors and for the 2013 event we have only been able to raise about a third of what we need."

MHCC, a staunch supporter of Fiji Fashion Week has exclusive naming rights for the next three years. Their financial sponsorship only partially covers the production of such a costly event.

In 2013 Crest Chicken and Tuckers Ice Cream are the only other financial sponsors for the 3rd year running.

Yet Fiji Fashion Week is the premier fashion event in the South Pacific and provides international exposure to local designers, stylists and models.

It aims to create both jobs and exports via the apparel manufacturing industry in Fiji.

"What Fiji needs now is the next generation of manufacturers who will specialise in fashion. We must also entice new investors, both local and overseas.

"The concept that Fiji can have a world class fashion industry has been made possible by Fiji Fashion Week," according to Mark Halabe, CEO of Mark One Apparel.

It is a fact that all countries with the most successful economies began with a garment manufacturing base.

One needs to look no further than Singapore as a prime example that went from garment manufacturing to becoming a successful IT supplier, to being the financial services centre of the Asia Pacific region.

Because of such limitations it is very common for government and quasi government type entities to support fashion shows of this type.

Take the recent Australian Fashion Week, for example: the NSW Government and Destination NSW were both lead sponsors alongside the naming rights sponsor, Mercedes Benz.

London Fashion Week is supported by UK Trade and Investment, alongside lead sponsor Vodafone.

Professor Paul Rider, a consultant in the global Fashion Industry who was the keynote speaker for the FJFW 2011 Fashion and Design conference said: "There is a need to build on the years of hard input and dedication that have gone into putting Fiji on the fashion map through media and buyers.

"Fiji Fashion Week has garnered much interest and this will in turn exploit the potential for Fiji to be the hub for garment manufacturing.

"With the advent of faster trend led design and a need for closer manufacturing for the large Australian markets, Fiji is best placed to offer expertise in all areas from design understanding to delivery of top quality garments.

"With costs in Asia, and China in particular rising the Australian and New Zealand fashion industries are looking for well trained and educated CMT makers regionally."

Most importantly is the interest the event is attracting from overseas designers wishing to manufacture in Fiji.

Two major developments in Australia and China are driving fashion business our way: the Australian crackdown on the 'piece making cottage industry' and the minimum order of 500,000 units in China has turned designers only requiring small runs to look at how Fiji can help.

New fashion boutiques and labels have sprung up in Suva and the West because of the demand for on-trend looks.

Local tailors are cashing in by raising their prices up to 300 per cent in some cases, much to the dismay of designers.

But business is booming for the three new local online fashion stores who set up shop in the last 12 months.

The first and most successful online store is owned by Moira Solvalu-Johns whose label 8 Mountains Collection is in great demand.

It is now a trusted clothing label since its establishment in 2009, exporting to seven different countries.

Designer Robert Kennedy stated: "FJFW has brought out the designers in Fiji and launched them into markets they may not have had access to otherwise.

"Words cannot express how much FJFW has meant to me.

"It has had a huge impact on my life as a fashion designer in Fiji. The knock on effect of FJFW is enormous."

Unfortunately, it is difficult for FJFW directors to address this situation in any other way than to simply say enough is enough. Over the past five years, we have created an industry that had not existed in the Pacific.

In early 2012, FJFW spearheaded discussions with the USP to introduce tertiary studies in Fashion and Design, which led to positive results.

The vice-chancellor of USP, Professor Rajesh Chandra said, "Based on preliminary discussions with the Fiji Fashion Council and APTC, USP is very keen to explore opportunities for partnerships with the stakeholders.

"While the details are yet to be worked out, our Strategic Plan 2013-2018 requires us to rationalise and strengthen our vocational provision at USP and therefore the university has agreed in principle to pursue this exciting proposal."

This would be a major achievement for the region.

The initiative is based on educating designers with qualifications beginning with Certificate 3 and 4 through to diploma and eventually degree level, which would tie in with home economics programs in secondary schools.

There is so much potential here and the community has been right behind us.

But we need help or we simply will not be able to carry on.