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Driven by sponsors

Ellen Whippy-Knight
Saturday, May 05, 2012

ALL international fashion weeks are sponsorship-driven. They can only happen successfully when supported by corporate sponsorship.

Fiji Fashion Week is no different. Mercedes-Benz has aligned itself with the biggest name fashion weeks, namely New York, Berlin and Australia is not far behind.

In backing such events, the company recognises the best designers, a difficult task considering the top quality of the field.

Each year Mercedes-Benz selects a designer to showcase his or her work at the annual Mercedes-Benz Presents Show.

Of all the glamorous Australian designers, Johana Johnson was the very first ever Australian designer to receive this distinguished and globally-recognised title.

Johana's design was selected for her timeless elegance, exquisite craftsmanship, use of luxurious fabric, hand finishes and detailing. She has taken the world by storm with her couture and lifestyle impeccably constructed pieces that last a lifetime.

Gavin Allen, GM of marketing for Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific, said the program recognised designers who demonstrated dedication, the use of quality materials, unique style and innovative design. This award has put Johnson in the limited category of the leading designers in the world.

I am not sure of the best words to describe her show and although I have used the word mesmerised many times and I do not hesitate to use it again. It took me back to the romance and glamour of yesteryear, the beautiful Gatsby period of sheer elegance where the gowns worn in the period 1920s to 1950s are now being revived on today's catwalks.

But what of our own local designers' ability to access to such fabric or any fabric for that matter?

With FJFW in its fifth year, this year's show promises to be the biggest yet, showcasing visiting designers from Australia, India and the US alongside our fast growing number of emerging designers.

This year we have registered a record number of designers and while the quality of their work improves every year, the biggest issue is access to modern day fashionable fabrics.

Recently I did the rounds of all the fabric outlets in Suva and to my disappointment found very little available. After all without fabric one cannot present a garment.

The biggest problem would be to have two designers using the same fabric and believe me to my shock and horror it happened in 2009. We are still wondering how that one slipped past us.

But whatever happened to the numerous fabric stores that lined the streets of Suva up until the 1980s. People, particularly the ladies, are still sewing at home. The fabric shops are always packed ù try going to Atlas on a Saturday, it becomes a hothouse.

Fashion designing is an expensive industry and only the tough and dedicated survive. It is obvious that designers wishing to participate this year are going to have to pay up a bit more as they will have to look abroad for fabric, either purchasing online or coming to places like Sydney as Lana Smith and Moira Solvalu have done.

Whatever, they need to do this to keep their range unique if they wish to progress to the levels as seen overseas and for the marketability of their product.

In addition, Fiji Fashion Week, the newly-formed Fiji Fashion Council and the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Association, have a task and a half ahead cut out for us ù fabric hunting ù if we want this industry to grow and if we want to produce our own Johana Johnson types.

And if you want some names of designers who could be on the cusp of achieving this, keep an eye out for Carolyn Ah Koy, Rachel Fairfax, Lana Smith and Yolla Johns ù they could just be it.

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