One of Samoa’s top Designers, Afa Ah Loo, has gone from strength to strength in being recognised as a fashion force to be reckoned with from the Pacific.
Ah Loo recently featured one of his designs at Buckingham Palace when he was chosen to represent Samoa in a celebration of the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange.
In a surreal moment for Ah Loo, the designer found his sustainably produced and handcrafted ball gown lined up with more than 30 other designer gowns in the Queen’s state room, which represented the different cultures, identities and the creative skills of 53 countries.
Speaking to the Sunday Samoan, the young designer said late last year, he almost didn’t believe it when he received a handwritten note from the Queen of England inviting him to participate in the fashion show at Buckingham Palace.
“Honestly, I thought it was a hoax when I received the first email. Like who has a fashion show in the Buckingham Palace,” he laughed.
“But when I researched Eco Age (the organization that put together the show for The Commonwealth Fashion Council), I found out that it was not a hoax and that this was a big opportunity. I immediately felt so excited but mostly nervous and overwhelmed for this great honour, but mostly because of the magnitude of this opportunity that has been given to me to represent Samoa."
“I felt honoured and privileged that this island boy from Samoa was personally invited by the Queen to come and show off one of my designs in her home.”
Once it was confirmed that it was the real thing, Ah Loo got to work on creating his piece for the show. It took him two months to come up with the design and concept of the gown and some of that time was spent in Samoa drawing inspiration from our landscape and culture.
“The main reason I wanted to come to Samoa last year was to get inspiration for this gown. I mostly got inspiration from how colorful and beautiful Samoa is and the amazing culture and traditions we have."
“I used two fabrics that were in the shades of green (both fabrics were eco-friendly fabrics), to represent how green and lush Samoa is and how important it is for us to do our part in conserving our environment and this earth that we live on."
“I also used a floral fabric signifying Samoa’s beautiful environment, surrounding and culture. The cut of the detachable floral skirt was something that I wanted to portray, the beautiful green mountains that run down to our lands."
“For the belt, I used an ‘afa that was woven by my late father many years ago to make it only personable to me, but also to signify the importance of holding on to our roots and never forgetting those who have gone before us.”
The end result was a gown that was truly a representation of Ah Loo’s signature style of clean, classy and sophisticated designs that were simple, but demanded attention. And it did catch the attention of fashion elites such as super model Naomi Campbell, Vogue’s Anna Wintour and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, who admired and praised the gown during a viewing.
For Ah Loo, the special event was a defining moment for him because he realized that he had achieved something that he had always wanted and also that mothers are always right.
“To be honest, I’ve always wondered how it felt like to represent Samoa in a world stage like how our athletes do in rugby and Olympics,” he said. “I asked that same question when I was watching the Rugby World Cup with my late mom one year and she said to me something that I will never forget and that it actually came true, she said ‘Son, you don’t need to be great at any sports to represent your country. Your God given talents can take you to places like this.
You can represent your country by using what God gave you - your talents’. Two things I learned from what she said, one is that God has a plan for everyone and two, mothers are always right.”
Samoa’s top designer doesn’t plan on stopping at Buckingham Palace; the designer is finishing his first full bridal collection and is working to get that off the ground. His long held dream of being selected too on the reality show “Project Runway” is still alive and thriving just as much as his pride in being a Samoan.
“Will you see the last of Afa Ah Loo? Absolutely not, this is only the beginning and I am excited to see new adventures ahead,” he said. “But one thing that I know for sure is that I will always take two things with me, number one is my belief in my heavenly father and two, my culture and roots.
Where I grew up and where I learned the importance and value of hard work and perseverance. And that is Samoa. I’m proud and always will be a true Samoan.”