Corporate designer wear with native Polynesian edge the next Hollywood fashion trend?
By Alan Ah Mu
Two lovers of fashion realised a niche for clothes of that nature existed not in the vigorous clothing industry in Samoa.
“We both loved modern corporate wear but we could not find in Samoa the right balance and mix between corporate wear and a little of Samoan edge/influence,” said Muriel Lui, one half of a partnership with fellow lawyer, Mauga Precious Chang, in new market entrant, MaugaLui.
They identified the gap in the market five years ago but due to the demands of our day jobs at the time, kept the idea on the backburner until now.
“However we believe everything is done in God’s time and we believe that this was the perfect time for MaugaLui to launch, the people are ready for something new and something different,” said Lui.
For a small island nation Samoa sure has a large clothing industry, always evolving and in fast growth mode.
More than 60 fashion houses compete there and to enter this market is not for the faint hearted.
“Fashion is the big thing here now,” said Jasmine Netzler-Iose, a former print and television journalist, “particularly so because local designers are getting more and more opportunity to be featured overseas – to break into the overseas markets.
“I’m not just talking about the small stuff, they are going for the big catwalks,” said Netzler-Iose, a close follower of the industry.
Like a recent fashion show in China, she said.
“Our people are getting good and understanding their niche in the markets overseas.
“Fashion in Samoa isn’t small talk any more it is moving on to big international runways.”
Despite the crowded market the MaugaLui partners were confident of the uniqueness of their designs and prints.
“What we were more curious about was how people were going to react to our designs given they were so different from what is currently popular in the fashion industry,” said Lui.
Popular in Samoa right now is clothing based around bright and vivacious colours and prints, the mixture of unexpected colours, the reinvention of the puletasi, and the resort wear.
Coming from corporate backgrounds, the MaugaLui partners wanted to enter the industry through design for the corporate woman; to offer them design options that were between the traditional puletasi and the modern business suits, that was between the bright floral and elei prints and more modern prints that still reflected Samoan heritage and culture.
“We play with modern silhouettes but with a little of Samoan edge to it which we usually reflect in the prints,” said Lui. “We want to capture the line between both classy and edgy, bring out a little bit of confidence in the people that wear it.
“We envision our designs being worn by any woman, faafafine, or man for that matter. We believe that what you wear greatly influences how you feel and how you carry yourself.
“We want our clients to wear their MaugaLui and immediately feel professional and confident, hold their heads a little higher and strut like the world is your catwalk. That is how we have gotten through life and how we continue to go through life: with confidence, honour and with your head held high – nothing can get you down.
“Being Samoan women, of course our first and main market is our own people and our Pacific brothers and sisters, so definitely we aim to capture that market although its not limited to that.
“As we expand we aim to capture other overseas markets as well and go from there.
“In the meantime, we will be attending the Pacific Fusion Fashion Show in Auckland at the end of this month to promote our line to the Pacific audience in New Zealand.
“We also aim to start retailing in New Zealand after that show, so yes definitely we envision our designs being worn by Pacific women in New Zealand.”