Clothing manufacturing revisited

By Enid Westerlund 12 October 2023, 12:00PM

I started a fashion brand in 2012 that was like most artists in Samoa, but the motive was quite different. Pele Project that turned into Enara fashion brand from 2014, started as a youth employment project in a friend’s garage at Aleisa. I started that, so talented, artistic youth could earn a living from their art in order to support their families and at the same time cater to a growing elei market.

Four years later, I left the aviation industry to start my own business, expanding on what little knowledge I had of the fashion, marketing and garment manufacturing industry. My mother wasn’t very enthusiastic about the idea of her daughter who went to university for six years to pursue a commercial pilot’s license, aviation making degree, a postgrad and a masters degree in air transport only to be a ‘shop owner’. I don’t blame her; mothers want the best for their children and it’s not to start at the bottom.

My father on the other hand being the optimist said “Go do it, if you don’t do it, you’ll never know’. Six months into that business and co-owning a building with him, I founded the first Samoa Sinnet Fashion Show in 2016 that sold out with six hundred attendees, the first big event at Taumeasina Island resort, more than 10 fashion houses, around sixty young models who were trained by my excellent team, launched many fashion labels and talent.

The likes of Tahiano, MaugaLui, Tahiano, Ev’ana Courture, Judy’s Boutique (Flilipsew), IVY, MASC (Sam Ioane), Afa Ah Loo and many fashion labels were launched or featured at SSFS. More importantly, three of our male models also launched their international careers from that show which was a great outcome for the platform. 

Samoa fashion shows are now a norm and have continued in the last seven years. Fiji Fashion week is still running strong and other annual shows such as Wearing Fiji, Style Fiji. I’ve been invited as a VIP to several fashion shows around the place. Highlights include NZ fashion week and Sydney Pacific Runway shows. I’ve yet to go to the London Pacific show, perhaps when I go to my alumni reunion in London? Why am I talking about this today? Because, Samoa has yet to tap into the international markets and the manufacturing scene is somewhat stagnant.

I left Samoa in 2017 after the second fashion show to pursue a garment manufacturing certificate because as a business owner, I was frustrated with the quality of garments that were produced locally. Also, those from my own fashion label. I do not blame the machinists or sewers because we are miles behind Fiji, New Zealand and Australia in that aspect.

For one, we do not have a fashion degree or certificate at either USP or NUS that teaches the basic sewing, standards, business of fashion, marketing, storyboards and so forth. Garment manufacturing is much more than spilling paint on a stencil, sewing a tunic and then throwing it on social media for likes and sales especially for the international market. Sure, local designers can charge whatever they want but if the quality doesn’t justify the price, I am not buying it. That’s why we still go to Filipinos and pay the higher prices because we can wear that item again.

I graduated with that certificate in 2018 in the middle of having a baby. I came away appreciating the hard work that machinists and designers go through to ensure their product is fit for purpose. The bigger companies like Eveni and Tanoa have their offshore manufacturing arms but what about the little guys who want to sell online? We do not have professional sewers or manufacturers available here for that. Isn’t it ;we revisited that for employment and for our own pride as manufacturers and designers?

Who is responsible for that because it’s not just the course, it’s a myriad of requirements that should be in place?

By Enid Westerlund 12 October 2023, 12:00PM
Samoa Observer

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