At the edge of fashion

Apart from his nursing studies, Alipate loves to dabble in designing clothes. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

AT 21, Alipate Sowane has shown what he can do with the amazing talent he has.

We met the Tubou, Lakeba, Lau native at The House of Design Fiji shop in Suva earlier this week, where he works part-time while he completes his final year at the Fiji School of Nursing (FSN).

It’s a place where he dabbles with various design ideas while at the same time better his work.
“From a young age, I have always been very artistic. I like to draw and paint so I’m not surprised I started designing later. I entered a few small art and fashion competitions throughout my high school years, but it wasn’t until I started working part time at the House of Design Fiji when I got serious about it,” he said.

The cosy boutique shop is hidden among the array of coffee shops and other clothes designer shops at the QBE Arcade in Suva. It’s a shop that is a world of its own; showcasing various crafts and cloth designs done by designers like Alipate.
“I have been working here for a couple of months and being here has truly exposed me to the fashion industry,” he says as he walks around the small shop.
“I’ve grown to love this place and it has become almost a part of me.”

Alipate showcased his collection called ‘PATE’ at the Bottega Gold Fijian Fashion Festival early this year and it has raised eyebrows among the audience. His clothes strikes you for its chic look and dark colours.

“Putting together the collection was something that took a lot of planning and preparation was intense,” he said.

“It took months of preparation, from being part of the events team and taking part as a designer was a great experience and I’m happy that I was surrounded with the right people who were so supportive of me and the passion I have.”

His collection is inspired by a comic strip (which he created) called “The Hidden People.”

It’s a fictional story of elves that have themes like the importance of self-acceptance, freedom and passion — qualities which he draws inspiration from.

“Each of the piece I showcased this year was based on one of the characters from the story. The clothes are for anyone, it’s fun, edgy and I want the clothes to impact the people that wear them. And make them feel good about themselves, like they can do anything.”

For now Alipate is finishing his last year as a nursing student. “It’s something I started and I might as well finish it,” he said with a smile.

“I am also looking at enrolling into APTC for a training course in fashion design.

“To be able to put a collection together for a world standard show like the Bottega Gold Fijian Fashion festival was an amazing experience. I got to showcase my debut collection next to some of Fiji’s best designers and it was an incredible experience, I also learnt so much from the people around me throughout the journey.
“I would like to see more young designers to not just look at designing as something that’s fun and dramatic; not that it’s not, it is fun but it can also be a good business. I’m grateful that shows like the Bottega festival are all about the development of small to medium enterprises. I hope that in future, more young designers come up and make a business out of their talents.
“If you are a very young designer and you want to move into fashion, then go for it. Do not be afraid. You can do it, you just have to work hard, be at the right place at the right time and surround yourself with a good group of people that will always support you,” he said with finality.

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