Loud on Simple


By Lice Movono-Rova


She was one of the rising stars form Fiji Fashion Week 2012, a sure winner was the way some described Sonam Sapra.

Although born in Labasa in 1986 Sonam lived for 25 years in countries which include the Maldives, India, Bangladesh, Iran, Kenya and the United States. This latest of Fiji’s increasing crop of young fashion designers has a Bachelors in Communication Design from Parsons the New School from Design, recognised by many to be amongst the best in the world.  Yet when she knew it was fashion that she wanted to make her mark with, Sonam came back home.

After a praiseworthy debut at the Emerging Designers Show of FJFW2012, Sonams perseverance and constant outpouring of creativity is ensuring this wonder has more hits to come. Her NYC education is her strength and Sonam puts that to good use focusing on original prints instead of original garment designs.

Yet as amazing as her work is, Sonam was not always confident about sharing her art. For years she had been creating original work yet keeping everything to herself. Enter Fiji Fashion Week.

“Launching my first collection at Fiji Fashion Week was great step forward,” Sonam said. “Joining Fiji Fashion Week allowed me to showcase my designs to an audience, which got great feedback, and within four months of launching my first collection I picked up a fantastic momentum and the momentum picks up more and more everyday.”

Sonam credits FJFW with advice which has pushed her forward into production saying the organisations Managing Director Ellen Whippy-Knight gave her good advice.

“Ellen always makes it a point to share the latest trends, colors and inspirations with us. She shows us collections that work and collections that don’t work. When someone is standing there giving you all the information you need it makes it really easy to make multiple collections and feel confident about it,” she said.

“FJFW gives good advice but if you don’t genuinely take it in it only hinders your own progress. When you have a hunger like mine for knowledge you learn to take every little detail in and apply it.”

While she stays true to Pacific character in choosing to highlight the beauty of nature in her drawings Sonams art is a different can of paint. Her FJFW 2012 collection, entitled Insecta focused on the raw lines and colours of Fiji insects, beetles to be exact. This latest one, released two weeks ago entitled ‘Forever, Ready to Wear’ brings plants, insects , symbols, icon and ornaments into her canvas.

“Forever” is a classic group of timeless patterns chosen with the idea of bringing all the focus onto her prints.

“I decided that the name of my latest Collection should be called “Forever, Ready To Wear” by Sonam Sapra out of respect that the garments themselves are simple and comfortable yet decorated with bright hand drawn prints. The prints come first and then the garments. This is my first ready to wear collection,” Sonam said.

Her fans can expect a changing kaleidoscope of colours and prints but Sonam has found around 50 garment designs she will stick to while she produces unique fabrics to play with.

Her prints are loud, whether they are colourful or black, one can be assured they will be noticed in a Sonam print.

“Loud prints work great with simple garments. Why make the garment compete with the print? I’m already bending over backwards for my label I don’t want to break my back in the process,” she said.

“I do draw a lot from nature; the natural shapes and colors of plants and insects fascinate me. I am obsessed with texture as well. I love my artwork, but there is no mystery behind it. I know how the idea came to my head, how to execute it and how to present it. Even a reaction to my work is pre determined before it happens. But nature will always fascinate me because there is no plan behind. It’s just naturally beautiful. It naturally has a wow factor.”

Sonam caused some waves in the fashion industry in 2012 with the idea of locally designed and manufactured prints. Fiji can count on one hand the number of fashion designers who are also producing locally designed fabric available for retail. The art is difficult and the manufacturing process even more so but with increasing innovation within the Textile, Clothing and Footwear industry, more garment factories are installing equipment which enables people like Sonam to ply their trade.

“My target markets are people that like wearable art and like to stand out. People that like to wear pieces that start a conversation and treasure the story behind it. My clothes really do work for all demographics depending on how you dress and accessorize them,” Sonam said when asked who she designs for.

The production for “Forever” started on the back of a country wide road trip that Sonam took with her husband Kyle. During the trip, Sonam attended the “International Textile Trade Show” in Los Angeles, Califonia in February, 2013.

“While I was there I had the opportunity to showcase my hand drawn fabrics with many other fabric manufacturers and accessory suppliers. I took the time to walk around and look at the types of prints people were displaying. The prints were bright and mixed with all types of genres; floral, animal prints, tribal etc. into one design. I was really inspired but at the same time I also noticed how generic everything looked. Everything was computer generated, layered and overwhelming. People always think more is better. There is a time and place for everything,” she said.

After the show, the couple stayed a month with Kyle’s parents in Kingman, Arizona a small town two hours away from the Grand Canyon.

“While I was there I was isolated in the canyons and had a lot of free time. When I have a lot of free time I do a lot of drawing. So, I sat back, closed my eyes, recollected everything I had taken in while at the tradeshow and began drawing. Hence, my spring inspired prints were birthed. I like to think that everything I took in at the tradeshow I re drew with a lot more balance in the print.”

A go getter, Sonam’s outpouring of creativity is attracting a huge following and she has also attracted the interest of local fashion retailer, Elaine Taylor, the owner of Aladdins Cave and Edge Hair Design. Ms Taylor, herself a mover shaker in the fashion industry is somewhat of a litmus test in the local fashion scene. The latest trends, designs and accessories, whether they’re from Fiji, Pacific or European Runways, can be found at Aladdins Cave.

Collections bought by Aladdins Cave don’t just hang on her racks, Elaine takes it upon herself to market the brand thoroughly and Sonam has been the local beneficiary of that work.

“Aladdins Cave was the genius behind our amazing location for the latest photo shoot. Elaine organized a private photo shoot at Nanuku Resort which hasn't even opened yet,” Sonam said.

“We met our make up artist Elle Stephenson and she got right into the groove of dolling us all up while Elaine  worked the hair and Bruce Southwick from ZoomFiji Photography set the whole mood. Everyone was so professional in their roles and we had so much fun at the same time.”

The photographs from that shoot set the platform for a marketing campaign that is keeping even the not so fashionable looking up at this young artist.

“People in Fiji are very interested in "fresh" fashion. You'll be surprised with the amount of feedback you get once you put yourself and your work really out there.”

Sonam is excited about Fiji Fashion Week 2013 and says her fans can expect the same brand of new but in familiar packaging.

“I don’t design my clothes like most people. Right now I am working with a certain group of garments that I will keep producing over time but with different prints. That way people that have already bought my clothes and are comfortable with the way a certain outfit sits on their body know that they are buying something that they wont regret wearing. The fact that the prints keep changing is a bonus,” she said.

“Working with the same garments makes it easier to produce large quantities with factories. The simpler I keep my clothes the more time I have to focus on my prints. I will be introducing new garment patterns at this year’s FJFW.”



Photo Credits: Bruce Southwick, ZoomFiji Photography

Hair: Elaine Taylor, Edge Hair Design

Make Up: Elle Stephenson

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