By Lice Movono-Rova
Published in The Fiji Times, Friday, September 20, 2013
MICHAEL Mausio is only 22 years old but he is already well-known in local fashion circles, even sitting on the executive committee of the Fashion Designers Alliance of Fiji.
The part-time law student at the University of the South Pacific will showcase his fashion design work at the Vodafone Echoes of the Pacific Show during next month's MHCC Fiji Fashion Week.
What makes Michael different though is that his garments are designed to ensure our oceans and in particular the mangroves are on the agenda of the urban young.
The designer is Fijian of Rotuman descent with European and iTaukei maternal ancestry, so one could say he grew up with both a love for, and appreciation of the Pacific Ocean.
Like most Fijians of Rotuman descent who live in urban Viti Levu, Michael comes from a culture rich and active family, so a lot of his design work has that character background. It is also a source of pride for Michael, one he hopes will seep into his garments at the October 3 show.
"The collection I will be showing is called Tiri. Tiri is Fijian for mangroves, my collection hopes to grab the attention of the young urban islander on the importance of our mangroves in terms of cultural and environmental wellbeing," Michael said.
"The mangroves play an important part in our ecosystem of which many of our cultural traditions are associated with."
In most Pacific island communities, mangroves are an important source of food giving a home to various spawning fish species and crustaceans.
Mangroves are also important to indigenous communities for medicinal purposes. Many Pacific communities still use mangrove timber as reinforcement for building construction.
Another important purpose worth highlighting is that mangroves serve as barriers to waves, particularly important in the event of a tsunami.
In terms of fashion, mangroves provide effective and beautiful dye materials for printing.
An urban dwelling islander, Michael is keenly aware of how little his peers know about how essential mangroves are to a balanced ecosystem.
"So by highlighting the importance of the mangrove through fashion, I hope to raise awareness in the youth on its significance," Michael said.
"My cultural heritage is one of my biggest inspiration in my creativity, being from a diverse background, I was able to pick out the best aspects of each and try to combine them into a creative form which represents the best of the Pacific."
After completing high school, Michael took a two-year rest before starting his university degree, and he also spent that time working for well-known local fashion designer and artist, Rosie Emberson-Semisi.
It was also the birth of his love for fashion. He started off his label not long after having learnt from Mrs Semisi the rag trade — from sewing to screen printing and cutting.
Coupled with a love for outrigger canoeing and a short stint as curator of the Fiji Arts Council art gallery, the young designer's career was off to a good start.
"My prints are inspired by the mangroves and the pattern which I will be using is the urban street kid look, which specifically targets Pacific islanders living abroad yet want to have that island look but also maintain a western look at the same time," Michael said.
"I hope to be exposed to a wider audience and showcase the best of the Pacific internationally to Pacific islanders all over the world."
* Lice Movono-Rova is the Manager Public Relations & Media for Fiji Fashion Week.