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Catwalk and other walks

Fiji Fashion Week
Monday, March 05, 2018

FIJI Fashion Week's 11th annual Model Casting, is being held today in Suva. The iconic highly respected local and international fashion event is preparing for its 11th show — Resort Collections 2018, to be held on Friday May 25 and 26 at the newly-refurbished FMF Gymnasium, Laucala Bay Rd, Suva.

FJFW has always been at the forefront of identifying model talent and there is no doubt that the model castings will unearth more of Fiji's confident and beautiful model hopefuls and setting them on the path to successful careers. While FJFW loves a "new face", so many of Fiji Fashion Week's models have continued to walk for the show annually and have gone on to become household names.

It seems a fitting time to reflect on the numerous highlights FJFW models have enjoyed over the years and at the same time offer some words of encouragement for the fresh hopefuls of tomorrow.

Among the key pillars of FJFW's ethos of inclusivity, diversity, education and sustainability from nurturing creativity to business skills for designers, is also reflected in the modelling sector. Without talented models to bring designs to life and fit with the highly respected international events production values, there would be no Fiji Fashion Week. FJFW was also one of the first Fashion Weeks in the world to embrace diversity in the fashion industry by providing models of all sizes on the main runway. Only in the past few years have global Fashion Weeks for example in Milan and New York, included diversity on the runway.

Local Fijian models have proudly flown the flag for Fiji's stunning design prowess, style and beauty both here and abroad for years. FJFW has provided international platforms where local models have shone, like when 'FJFW went 'on tour' taking local designers garments to show in Los Angeles, Sydney and other Pacific nations.

The reaction to our models overseas is always so positive, says managing director of Fiji Fashion Week, Ellen Whippy Knight.

"When we went to LAFW, no sooner than we walked into the venue on the day we arrived, our models — Suliana, Blue and Jelly; were asked to walk for the other US-based designers."

More importantly, it's here at home in Fiji, where FJFW has kick-started careers and created opportunities for the new crop of Fiji Fashion models. Not only have these highly trained models walked for FJFW but have also graced annual events such as Style Fiji.

High profile international fashion designers have attended FJFW over the years such as Neville Findlay of Zambesi and Annah Stretton from New Zealand. In 2012, New York based luxury fashion designer, LaQuan Smith, was guest of honour at FJFW. When he arrived in Suva he personally hand-picked his top ten models of Fiji, including Philippa Steele, Mykaela Powell, Tamsyn Cornwall and others, to wear his luxury ready to wear. LaQuan enjoys a devoted celebrity following such as Beyonce, Kim Kardashian and many others. He creates jaw-dropping red-carpet numbers that get the Twitter-verse buzzing, so only the cream of the crop of models would do.

Mykaela Powell, now based in Sydney, a university student, part-time model and Fiji Fashion Week top model for many years said, "modelling for FJFW has given me international experience and confidence in my everyday life at work, university and in general. The family-like, supportive atmosphere created back-stage and in the main arena made it a fun and happy time for me. I encourage the young hopeful models trying out tomorrow to enjoy every moment on your journey and trust that you are in expert hands with FJFW."

Tamsyn Cornwall, FJFW top model, swimwear designer and currently working overseas with plans to explore the world. "To me FJFW is a celebration, it not only celebrates fashion, it celebrates all those involved and it's so much fun. My most memorable experience was walking for LaQuan Smith, it was such an insane feeling to walk for him and wear his amazing designs. I feel incredibly lucky and grateful that I was able to be part of a globally recognised event — to be on Fashion TV with other FJFW models and having the opportunity to fly to PNG with some of the beautiful FJFW team was beyond cool."

Sina Logoake, FJFW top model, first-year Law student at USP continues to model. "The FJFW runway is really different to the others mainly because it's a locally organised event but has set high international standards. I was literally amazed the first time I took part, with the number of cameras and local and international photographers, different media outlets and all the make-up artists and other production crew. It was a really beautiful experience being part of such an event plus I got to make friends with models and designers from other countries like Guam. As a naturally slim girl I would often be told I should eat more or I'd look better if I gained more weight. Walking for FJFW helped me to gain self-confidence and helped me to think more positively about myself and embrace the little flaws I have. I will continue to model as a part time job and this will help me explore different working environments until I graduate."

Remi Naqali, FJFW top model and Law student also juggles modelling and her studies."From a model's perspective, I believe it's the way FJFW models are taught to walk that makes the event distinctive. We undergo weeks of practice and it shows. This was evident when myself and two other models were chosen to go to Sydney to represent Fiji at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in 2016. In Sydney we received positive feedback that FJFW team's walk was different and beautiful." Like Sina, Remi also sites making lifelong friends as the most enduring gift of FJFW. "Also, it has been a humbling experience and has opened doors offering good exposure for commercial advertising work, I am very thankful."

Following in the footsteps of top Fijian models of the 60s,70s, 80s, 90s and 00s such as Emma Heffernan, Anna Sweetman, Zelda Thomas, Anna-May Goulding, Sandhya Dusk Nand and Philippa Steele (Steele debuted at FJFW 2012) altogether with the naturally stylish, groomed and elegant women in our diverse communities, the new generation of models have a strong heritage to draw from.

"The millennial models" Remi, Sina, Mykaela and Tamsyn, each have sound advice for "tomorrow's" hopefuls: "don't be scared — give it your best — believe in yourself. Above all, have fun! Be open to criticism as you can learn from it and make sure you also take it seriously as you never know where this opportunity could lead you. It's not about popularity its more about being humble in your confidence and appreciating where life takes you."

Fiji Fashion Week's wish for model hopefuls, "Be inspired by the aspirational opportunities ahead and what has come before and if you don't succeed today, know you have done your best and you possess many fine beautiful qualities, be happy."

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