Robert Kenedy's speech at Fiji Fashion Week 2016 Launch

 

Bula Vinaka ladies and gentlemen,

My name is Robert Kennedy and I would like to welcome you to the launch of Fiji Fashion Week 2016! It’s hard to believe we are here celebrating nine years of Fiji Fashion Week. Where has all that time gone?

In fact even before Ellen asked me to speak tonight, I was reminded about how long it’s been, when a journalist described me as a veteran designer in a recent newspaper article.

“Veteran”, I thought!!!! How rude!! But then I quickly realized that nearly a decade has passed since I had started out in Fashion and I have participated in every single FJFW, save the first one. In fact that first FJFW at Denarau was the inspiration to get me into fashion design.

It was like nothing I had seen in Fiji since moving back in 2002. The show was spectacular, the clothes were gorgeous and the models beautiful. I was instantly hooked and I remember talking to Ellen after the show and asking if there was going to be one on again the following year, and that I would love to participate in it. Sure enough the following year it was on and I showed my first ever collection.

I can honestly say without any qualms that my Fashion career in Fiji has been inextricably connected with FJFW. FJFW was the genesis of what is today’s fashion industry in Fiji. When I started out in those early years we didn’t have fashion photographers, we didn’t have stylists, we didn’t have fashion bloggers, or models of any professional capacity.

It is extraordinary to think how one event a year like FJFW has changed an entire industry and the lives of so many. Over the years I have seen so many different people come to FJFW, watch the show and leave with that exact same look in their eyes that I had when I first saw it, that spark of inspiration, that excitement that there was another world of creative possibilities right here in Fiji.

I know so many people in this industry that have had their careers kick-started by FJFW. I remember different photographers over the years that have come to FJFW as complete novices and shot the shows for free so that they would get experience. In doing so they met other industry people and overseas professionals that Ellen had invited and they now have successful businesses of their own.

Coincidently, with the advent of FJFW, Fiji’s burgeoning tourist wedding market started to develop and that created further opportunities for the new creatives involved in FJFW.

This is particularly so for a lot of today’s successful hair and make up artists that have all had their talent and creativity on show at FJFW. It also hasn’t just been within Fiji that that the impact of FJFW has been felt.

It is now an internationally recognized event and is the role model for many of our neighboring Pacific Island nations. In 2012 I was invited to participate in the Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomon Islands. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I was so surprised that the organizers of the Fashion Show all knew about FJFW and wanted to present a show of a similar caliber.

This influence in the region has also spread to Papua New Guinea and now this year Samoa will be having its first Fashion Week too. It’s no coincidence that these things are happening. There is no denying that Fiji Fashion Week is a shining beacon of creative inspiration in the South Pacific and is now being viewed as a legitimate form of creative expression.

It is also now being seen as a new way to express our culture, save our culture and show our culture to the world. In a region that has lost such a lot of its creative culture, it’s vital that platforms like FJFW are around, so that our talented youth can express themselves to their fullest ability. It’s imperative that the governments of the region wake up to the value of art and design and realize that if we had art in our education curriculums, from Kindergarten to University, we would be creating whole new economies and opportunities for our youth.

FJFW has also created other opportunities to show overseas where 10 fiji Designers participated in LA Fashion Week last year where 2 of use were picked up by LA agets and 5 Fiji Designers including myself showed at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia in May this year and what an experience that was with the fashion worlds top buyers and international media attending. Most exciting is now we have a permanent spot called the Pacific Resort Show.

These have been massive undertakings and would be nearly impossible to do without the collective power and influence of FJFW. These shows open us designers up to new markets and are beginning to create an awareness out there that we exist!

Yes Fiji on the global map of fashion! I can’t put into words how these experiences have changed and educated me and the other designers I have travelled with. We are all the wiser, motivated and encouraged by these experiences. Back home and today, the fashion industry has further expanded and evolved.

We now have two other major Fashion platforms each year with Style Fiji and Project Jejemon. We have the Fashion Council of Fiji, which is delivering further support and awareness for our industry. We also have several new boutiques that have opened in the past year all designing and making their fashion here in Fiji. We are in an era of fashion in Fiji that has never been seen before.

I know we all hark back to a golden period in Fiji when Tiki Togs was the epitome of island style, but when you look around us today, we have never had so much talent and creativity on show. We should be proud of what we are achieving and be ever grateful that Fiji Fashion Week has been around to nurture and provide us with opportunities that were never here before hand. This years FJFW is looking to be as exciting as ever. I am amazed how far we have come in what seems to be such a short time.

However, we still have so far to go. I feel that it is imperative that FJFW goes on into further decades so as to inspire and motivate new generations of designers, bloggers, photographers, hair and make up artists, models, machinists, DJ’s, stylists, event managers etc. etc. It is an essential platform for Fiji. We need all the support we can get from government and businesses in Fiji to keep this amazing event happening.

It’s very easy to be blasé about what has been accomplished by FJFW and it’s not until we look back at what has been created out of nothing that we realize how much we have achieved and how much more we need to achieve. I urge everyone here to support FJFW by coming to the shows whether as a participant or observer. I urge business and government to sponsor the event and contribute towards an industry that has huge potential for Fiji.

Why can’t Fiji be the creative hub of the South Pacific? Hasn’t FJFW already shown what enormous potential the fashion industry has to improve the lives of so many in our country?

Hasn’t it proved that creativity in all its many forms can change young peoples lives for the better? I look forward to seeing you all in September and wish all my fellow creatives the best, as they gear up for the event of the year.

Vinaka.

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