LEISURE

Fashion Designer Fulfills Dream

Samson Lee is a name that has become well-known in the local fashion industry. He recently opened up his first boutique shop in Suva and is proud to be fulfilling
19 Aug 2017 11:49
Fashion Designer Fulfills Dream
Mesulame Kunavula and Amber Wardell modelling Samson Lee’s designs at the Royal Suva Yacht Club. Photos: Grasskirt Photography

Samson Lee is a name that has become well-known in the local fashion industry.

He recently opened up his first boutique shop in Suva and is proud to be fulfilling his life-long dream.

In an interview with the Fiji Sun Leisure, Mr Lee talked about his upbringing, his fashion line, and his long-term business plan.

 

GIVE A BRIEF SUMMARY ABOUT YOURSELF

My dad is part Chinese from Kadavu and my mum is from Vanuabalavu in Lau.

I grew up mostly in Suva and Nadi. I’m the youngest of four siblings and I attended Yat Sen Secondary School.

I graduated with a degree in Social Work from Brigham Young University in Hawaii.

 

WHEN DID YOUR LOVE FOR FASHION AND DESIGNING START? PLEASE EXPLAIN MORE ABOUT IT.

My love for fashion began when I was young so I always had a thing for fashion.

I remember when I was young my mum used to buy me shirts from Tiki Togs and those were always my fond memories.

Me and my friend used to joke that it’s always been an extension of our personalities.

My mum was my style icon when I was growing up.

 

DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL TO STUDY DESIGNING? IF SO, PLEASE EXPLAIN ABOUT IT.

No I didn’t, but my area was social work, I’m more of a sketching type… can see something and I know what I want, so I like editing, styling, and that’s like one of my biggest things.

I also like colour and print, from the initial stages of design, picking out the fabric, colour, print and working closely with good graphic artists to really make things come together.

 

TELL US ABOUT YOUR CLOTHING LINE ‘SAMSON LEE FIJI’ AND WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE NAME?

The name is just me, my designs are basically a celebration of life, It’s all about colour and us living life.

A lot of my inspiration comes from here in Fiji and the Pacific. Just from the ocean, our rich marine heritage that’s something big.

My new prints – all the corals are shadowed, I like a lot of abstract stuff, simple, big, and bold – that’s me.

I don’t do anything small.

You see all my motif and pattern they’re all pretty big because I feel we should live life.

My designs, people already have picked that out, there’s other designers that are doing it, but I like to change colours so sometimes I like to choose colours that people don’t really wear but at the end of the day people kind of like it and buy.

I had lost my older sister to cancer two years ago and that has been my motivation and drive, at that moment I realised life was too short and I should pursue my dreams.

So my slogan for my line is: “Celebrating the Richness of Life” because that’s what it’s all about living life.

 

WHAT TYPE OF CLOTHING DO YOU SPECIALIZE IN AND WHO ARE YOUR TARGET CUSTOMERS?

My target customers are definitely the upper working class which is the affluent market and we cater more for plus-size women.

If you see most of our small size it’s like 1214 and I feel bad now because a lot of small women come to our shop and we don’t have their size it’s just because when I was online most of my clients were plus-size women.

So that’s where I cater to and that’s my market and I specialise in dress, shirt, clutches, and we do a little bit of home ware like cushions.

 

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN ESTABLISHED FOR AND WHO ARE YOUR MAIN MARKET DISTRIBUTORS IN FIJI AND ABROAD?

I have been established for two years now and I supply to a boutique at the Sheraton Resort in Nadi called Pineapple Boutique.

Now it’s also done from the newly opened shop in Suva.

 

DO YOU ONLY DESIGN AND SOMEBODY ELSE DOES THE SEWING?

Yes, I only design and the sewing is defiantly done by specialised tailors. I actually use tailors since I’m a small business as I also like supporting other small businesses, so I have three particular tailors that I use all the time and they’ve been very good to me.

They have continued to supply and I hope we continue to have that relationship.

 

YOU’VE OPENED YOUR FIRST BOUTIQUE. TELL US ABOUT THIS NEW VENTURE.

I saw this location (1 Butt Street, Suva) ages ago and actually it was an idea I had with two friends of mine to open a little coffee shop but because the place was too small we ended up with a boutique.

My main goal was to always have my own boutique shop.

I had done a six-month business course and that helped me in my strategic plan for my business.

It opened my eyes into growing and expanding my business.

 

WHAT CAN PEOPLE EXPECT WHEN THEY ENTER THE SHOP?

I want people to come in and feel like they’re not really in Fiji, but overseas.

Walking into the boutique style, the music, the lighting and the furniture. I designed all this myself, there was no interior decorator.

This is all me.

I wanted to create an atmosphere where it’s a bit of a lux industrial tropical glam that was my whole initial scene for the shop which is finally here.

 

TELL US ABOUT THE FEEDBACK SO FAR.

The feedback have been amazing, I don’t have anything left – we sold out our shirts, wrap dresses and my rack is pretty much empty so we had to restock.

And for me I don’t make the same thing a lot so if you see the four dresses that are the only four, I’m not going to do with the same colours again.
It’s been like that ever since.

I don’t do too much of the same thing, we try to change it up.

I want my designs to still be exclusive, you pay a lot of money for good quality clothing but at the same time it has to be unique.

 

HAS SOCIAL MEDIA WORKED TO YOUR ADVANTAGE?

Yes it is one of the biggest things that have worked to my advantage.

I started off on social media.

My first collections I took pictures at the Grand Pacific Hotel on August 2015 and I posted it up on Facebook and Instagram and since then we have taken off.

Back then I was operating from home, I then had to turn my garage into a studio.

 

WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE CHALLENGES FACED IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY?

For me personally one of my biggest challenges is finding good tailors and seamstress to make good quality outfit.

I don’t really like using big factories just because they can copy patterns and can reproduce it so that’s why I keep it small and supporting small businesses.

So starting my business has all come from my savings and I started off slowly and not rushing into anything.

 

HAVE YOU BEEN PART OF ANY FASHION SHOWS?

Yes, I have done Style Fiji Show at the Sofitel Resort which is an annual charity event that happens every December.

So I got invited to be part of the show.

I did my first fashion show last September at the Grand Pacific Hotel with all proceeds going to WOWS Kids Fiji charity group in support of cancer awareness.

 

WHAT ARE YOUR LONG-TERM PLANS?

The long-term plan is to open other outlets around Fiji and probably in resorts and will see how it goes.

We don’t want to rush anything.

I’m the kind of person that takes my time and make sure I do things well.

 

WHO DO YOU ATTRIBUTE YOUR SUCCESS TO?

Definitely my family and friends who have played a huge part supporting me and advising me throughout.

My parents have been my backbone.

Your advice to other upcoming designers wanting to join the local fashion industry.

Just start somewhere, that’s how I started, I didn’t wait for anyone.

Don’t listen to anyone, and if you’re going to start designing, do it but do it well and never take short cuts.

For me as a designer I try to keep up with what’s happening in the world and we should compare ourselves with international designers and not just comparing ourselves locally.
Feedback: mere.satakala@fijisun.com.fj

 

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