Life is wonderful for Afa Ah Loo one of Samoas’ foremost emerging young fashion designers. In 2015 his designs were on the catwalk of the Fiji Fashion Week, and more recently at the ‘LA Fashion Show’. He was also a designer for our Miss World Samoa, Latafale Auva’a. This past year has been hectic for Ah Loo on the runway and designing dresses for pageants and weddings.
Ah Loo presented a collection at the LA Fashion Week after Ellen Whippy (Director of Fiji Fashion Week) invited him to participate with nine Fijian Fashion Designers. He said that,…“I showed ‘evening resort,’ I was able to design clothes that were more elegant than those shown at Fiji Fashion Week.” ‘LA’ Fashion Week is the USAs’ second biggest fashion show. Ah Loo recalls…” I had butterflies seeing my works on the catwalk. I made all the works in Utah and I drove from Utah to Los Angeles. I was able to show elegant gowns plus a couple of fun little hot pants numbers.”
While he was in Los Angeles, Miss World Samoa Latafale Auva’a contacted him and asked him to be her main designer. This was an opportunity that he could not resist. He left Los Angeles early and began designing for Miss World Samoa.
Ah Loo recalls that, …”It was an overwhelming thought that millions of people around the world would see my designs in one night. Latafale wanted me to help her and she was looking for sponsors and so I gave her three gowns in all. I made them and sent them to her and the next day she left for China. Most designers would have a dressmaking stand to work with or the individual herself, but I had to make the dresses for Latafale who was in New Zealand at the time. It was nerve racking. It is hard catering for someone when the model is not there to try things on. The person who designed her traditional wear was able to make the small adjustments that were needed.”
Ah Loo designed the major ball-gown the cape with the feathers for the Miss World Samoa. He said it was a beautiful fabric that shimmered different colours when it moved. Latafales’ instructions were for a dress that was elegant and simple, but one that “allowed for the beauty of a Samoan girl to shine through.” It glittered in the light and gleamed like it had diamonds on it.”
Ah Loo commented that he got mixed comments on the dress and this was hard to deal with. He had not expected the public to be so critical and direct in their dislike of his design ... “It hurt me a little bit, some said that it was too simple, but it is the type of style and fabric that is better to see in the flesh, photographs did not do it justice. It is all this is part of the business - you have to get used to negative criticism. However I was surprised people were so rude! They Face Booked me and were really rude.”
After Los Angeles and Miss World, people now ask Ah Loo to design bespoke wedding dresses. He loves where he is at right now as he really enjoys making gowns and wedding dresses. This keeps him very busy. “I am grateful to the media for their support, the Samoa Observer for helping me get to where I am at now. I am truly grateful.”
He has applied for Project Runway and if he doesn’t get in he will apply again. “I am excited, I am willing to try everything and anything. I want a celebrity to wear my design on the red carpet and that’s my goal. If that happens I will be a happy man.”
Already some labels want him on their design team. He is “super excited to have ‘Fiji Tall’ approach him to do their clothing range, and he is sending them designs now and they are looking at fabrics in Bali and all over Indonesia. “We will be at Tappoo City in Fiji.” …”My designs are a little more complicated. I am more comfortable and confident than I was before with my designs. In this type of career you are open to the public and you have to grow a thick skin. People will knock you back and it sucks! You question your ability? Do I really know my stuff?”
“I want to do a fashion show in June before I go at Home Café. I’m excited for what Samoa has to offer in the future, there is so much untouched beauty, it will go boom. We have to get over copying other people as I have seen copies of my designs in other shops and it’s on their racks.” I mentioned to Ah Loo that it is important for designers to register their creative designs and fashion collections and in Samoa this can be done with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
Ah Loo will be going to Utah in July and he hopes to go to fashion school in New York as he would love to study fashion and design. He particularly wants to go to a fashion school where his favourite designer is Zack Posen studied. Ah Loo wants to know how to uses patterns, dress forms, and how to do drapery.
He comments…”I find it very difficult to use patterns. So I will be excited to get the proper training. Currently I get my ideas from dress shops and looking on U Tube.” Ah Loo knows that he will learn a lot as school and this will help him in the end become a better designer as well as opening up doors for his career and giving him the opportunity to mix with the fashion world.
Ah Loo is getting married in September and will move to the USA. While he is concerned about loosing his client base in Samoa he understands the need to expose himself to new ideas, to stimulate his creativity and to be surrounded with innovative and exciting people and opportunities.
Ah Loo looks forward to living in New York as he loves music, theatre, and fashion and all of these are found in abundance in New York. He says…“it’s an exciting city to be in so I am looking forward to this next chapter in my life. I need a bigger audience, I have an amazing clientele in Samoa, so, I will come back and forth between the States and Samoa. It’s going to be a scary time. But you never know when you will see me on the runway!”