Juggling fulltime jobs and establishing fashion label ‘TAHIANO’ has been a major achievement for Samoa based fashion designers Mata’afa Hans Weche and Alvis Meredith. Alvis is a graphic designer and former marketing officer for the Samoan Tourism Authority while Hans is currently employed by Tokelau’s EDNRE (Economic Development, Natural Resources & Environment) department.
Based in Samoa and proudly representing Samoa and Tokelau, it took the business partners two years to become full-time fashion designers because of village, church and family commitments.
“Fashion is always evolving,” says Hans. “We wanted to have solid careers first so we could fund ourselves while also fulfilling our family responsibilities.”
Despite being a new fashion label, TAHIANO was chosen last year to design Samoa Airway’s new uniform. The striking blue puletasi and elei shirts represents what they call ‘Metro Polynesia’.
“Designing our line didn’t come naturally nor was it something we thought we would actually do but it was something we both knew we wanted to do,” they said at the Samoa Sinnet Fashion Show last July.
“Being Polynesian, we are naturally aesthetic people, pendantic about the finer details and we both saw an opportunity to infuse the city metro feel with elei.”
TAHIANO has already launched two collections including a series of wedding gowns and are targeting a niche market of elegant corporate Samoan styles. Aucklanders will get a taste of their designs at this year’s Pacific Fusion Fashion Show in October.
“Fashion was a huge part of our lives,” says Hans, whose Tokelaun roots inspired the name ‘TAHIANO’. “We grew up with our mothers and aunties who were seamstresses and surrounded by our grandmothers who wove hats and mats etc.”
“We’ve attended hundreds of family events where everyone was dressed up in all shades of the rainbow and textured clothing,” says Alvis. “These experiences inspired our passion to design what you see now in TAHIANO.”
Combining their skills has proven to be a winning formula for Alvis and Hans. Alvis is a natural artist who can express his designs on paper while Hans can design, cut, pattern block and drape using a mannequin.
“The Pacific fashion industry hasn’t seen much of the Tokelauan elei,” says Hans. “This gives us both the opportunity to design garments and then decide which garment is worthy to showcase the Tokelauan elei.”
One of the drawbacks to their success though has been copycats who’ve tried to reproduce their original designs.
“It’s sad when we see this happen to our work but there’s not much we can do about it,” says Alvis. “There’d be so much benefit if there was a National Fashion Committee set up here in Samoa, with genuine people behind it that could provide support, resources and set up guidelines that protected designers.”