Reviewing the Bottega Gold Fijian Fashion Festival

The Bottega Gold Fijian Fash­ion Festival was a feast for fashion lovers, with a senti­ment that our industry has truly arrived. I am also pleased to find that there are
09 Jun 2018 11:00
Reviewing the Bottega Gold Fijian Fashion Festival
A model wearing a ‘Moana’ design by Samson Lee on the final day of the Bottega Gold Fijian Fashion Festival. Photo: Simione Haranavanua

The Bottega Gold Fijian Fash­ion Festival was a feast for fashion lovers, with a senti­ment that our industry has truly arrived.

I am also pleased to find that there are a number of bloggers who have started to present honest reviews of collections, and I believe that it is through this honest feedback that we can grow as individual pro­fessionals, and as a whole.

Trends this year leaned towards a strong emphasis on identity, which interestingly enough, while still heavily being impressed through print is now also taking shape through silhouette.

Oversized ruffles, bell sleeves, sky- high slits, and stronger, almost architectural structure were on dis­play, as well as colour palettes that included different hues of greens, blues, and rust.

Embellishments, delicate appli­qués, and clashing fabric were also on show, illustrating a fresh bold­ness and willingness to take risks.

It was overall a very positive year of fashion presentations.

As always, here are my reviews as a fashion commentator and critic:

Designers are categorised in to four and I have added this to each designer review.

I prefer the reviews to be shown in each Designer category.

  1. RFx by Rachel Fairfax 10/10. Legendary

This is by far Rachel’s most ma­ture collection to date.

The colour pallet of black, rust, blush pink, and military green lended themselves to a high fashion utilitarian aesthetic.

Ruffled raw edges, and exaggerat­ed bell sleeves were spot on global trend, and spoke to the future of where these trends were going.

This is an integral part of an ul­tra-fashionistas uniform.

  1. Pacific Islands Art (PIA) 10/10 Legendary

PIA took it up a notch this year.

Their signature rainbow pallet was on full display, employing a print-on-print technique which gave their garments depth, and life.

  1. Hefrani by Aisea Konrote 5/10 Legendary

Mr Konrote is a very talented de­signer, and so very brave to be the first designer to have presented an individual show.

It is unfortunate that half his col­lection were sulus, which did not adequately reflect his brilliance.

Subsequent pieces were not trend setting, but instead were sober re­flections on his past.

I expected more. Having said that, Mr Konrote has a way of creating a mood of romance, and that senti­ment did come through his presen­tation.

I am aware that there was a terri­ble incident which left a number of his garments damaged immediate­ly prior to his show, so perhaps this is a justification for what we saw on the runway.

  1. Hupfeld Hoerder 10/10


It is rare that a “retrospective” col­lection would reflect the future, but Mr Hoerder has the incredible abil­ity of holding his market captive, and taking them on a journey.

Hand painted, vibrant colours of the Pacific, lace appliqués, and pan­elled mens shirts stole the show.

Of course there were signature Hupfeld kaftans, and 50s sillhou­ettes, but there was also develop­ment of free flowing, oversized, ruffled garments, layered to create a structured luxury in design. I loved it.

  1. AZA by Zulfikar Ali 10/10


I have no words. Perfection.

  1. Samson Lee 10/10. Legendary

Here is a true star of fashion.

Mr Lee knows his market, in a way that is neither shallow nor su­perficial.

He knows his market in a way that very few people do.

He has taken classic Fijian design and turned it into a contemporary brand that brings together luxury, practicality, and expression.

His Moana collection signified the launch of a new authentic print with strong roots in our identity as Fijians.

Beautifully-styled, impeccably presented. And he used sequins so I was immediately sold! Well done.

  1. Karalina by Carolyn Ah Koy 10/10 Legendary

The design sensibility of this col­lection finds itself, and I apologise for the cliche, at the cross section of the East and West.

It was interesting in that minimal­ist individual pieces were layered to create borderline avant garde looks (within the context of Carolyn’s usual feel). Beautifully executed.

  1. Zilda Collection by Zelda

Thomas 10/10 Legendary

Everyone in Fiji knows that Zelda equals luxury. One of our most leg­endary designers, and she did not fail to deliver.

  1. Mountains by Moira Solvalu John 10/10 Legendary

Ms Solvalu has come such a long way and has established herself as a force within the fashion industry.

For her 2018 collection she looked to the dalo leaf as inspiration for her prints, either as whole leaves or deconstructed elements of the plant.

While this may seem insignifi­cant, it actually is the most special thing about her collection which reimagined a Fijian staple for the purpose of communicating our identity through fashion.

Ms Solvalu has essentially rein­vented the way we will print in the future, by taking that which is ordi­nary, mundane, and everyday, and turning it into something beauti­ful.

  1. Aladdin’s Cave by Elaine

Taylor 10/10 Legendary

EMs Taylore has established her­self as the queen of avant garde ac­cessories.

This year she deconstructed the ta’ovala and spoke quite literally to the future of how we will keep our identity alive as Pacific island­ers. And the morph suits – too cool. Magic.

  1. Zuber by Ilai Jikoiono 10/10 Blooming

Again, Ms Jikoiono most mature collection to date.

Almost the entire collection was pulled by visiting fashion editor Shannon Clayworth for a destina­tion fashion shoot.

This designer has always pushed the boundaries of his own imagi­nation, and speaks to the future of Fijian fashion.

Unconventional material for our runways including burlap and leather, and hand stitched floral appliqués, posited against delicate silks and soft satins was a brave move, but also one that reflects the global move towards uncommon pairings of fabric.

  1. LavaLani by Su Samuels 7/10 Blooming

Ms Samuels has come a long way and I am personally proud of her.

This was a strong collection, us­ing beautiful material, and stun­ning details (give me gold buttons any day).

However, I have never been a fan of using a single material through­out an entire collection, and I feel like Ms Samuels is ready to break out of this and present a collection of greater maturity by incorpo­rating complimentary prints and colours to create a collection that is a stronger reflection of her bril­liance.

  1. Fancy Pants by Gwen Fong 10/10 Blooming

Fashion platforms are opportu­nities for branding, and this fact is often forgotten by many design­ers, but was certainly not taken for granted by Gwen.

This whimsical adventure into the mind of this incredible artist should be an inspiration to us all to take a chance and throw caution to the wind.

This is not about wearability, it is about high art and high fashion col­liding.

  1. Rowie Lal (Ready to Wear) 9/10 Blooming

A strong collection from a strong woman.

Ms Lal brought protest fashion to our runway and I feel that everyone left feeling empowered by her mes­sage.

My only notes are that her t-shirts, which were very on trend with her logo emblazoned across the chest (very Gucci-esque, and reminiscent of the re-imagined 90s Tommy Hil­figer tees of today), did not need to have the name or year of the collec­tion.

It would have also been nice to see a few more local faces incorporated into her garments graphics.

  1. Donnalesi by Donnalesi

Whippy 9/10 Blooming

Ms Whippy knows her market for menswear and is a trendsetter in her use of print and colour.

  1. GG by Gabriel Gade 6/10


A brilliant launch to Ms Gade’s career.

The collection was edgy with cord details, multilayer ruffle sleeves, and youthful silhouettes.

As a collection, it could have been more cohesive, but this is a very promising young designer and one to watch.

  1. Margin by Honson Keong 8/10 Budding

With global streetwear labels like Supreme making the crossover from high street to high fashion, Honson, an electrician by trade, brought that international sensibil­ity to our own runway, and it was incredible.

Playing on Fijian pop culture, his Andy Warhole-esque printed t-shirts (featuring the face of Ben Ryan, breakfast cracker packets, and Hibiscus matches) are already a hit!

And his shoutout to the LGBT community via a rainbow flag printed on a muscle-tee was a clear indication that this is a designer who is not afraid to make social commentary.

His bula shirts were perhaps a slight distraction from his strong sense of design. Never the less, this is collection is bound to sell out.

  1. PATE by Alipate Sowane 10/10 Budding

This is Alipate’s first full collec­tion, and taking that into consid­eration, this was an incredibly strong and focused collection with identity.

With a graphic novel sentiment running through the collection, his clash of material is very on trend, with soft and hard fabrics, as well as overlays of sheer creating a lux­ury street aesthetic.

It makes me proud that this is the future of our industry.

  1. Marama Elizabeth by Libby Pickering 5/10 Budding

This collection needed focus. It felt segmented rather than cohesive and looked to be 4 separate collec­tions within one presentation.

The soundtrack was also very dis­tracting.

There are good bones for develop­ment, but there needs to be a defi­nite direction established by the designer.

  1. Retima House by Renuka

Kumar 3/10 Moana

Unfortunately, this was not a col­lection, but was rather a collection of products.

No doubt that Ms Kumar has a market and this collection was commercial, but perhaps she is not ready for an international stage such as the Fashion Festival.

  1. Vono by Tiana Vono 10/10


So, so super cool. The Pacific man reinvented.

  1. Jadeine Whiteside 10/10


Ms Whiteside comes from a proud history of fashion in Fiji, being the grand daughter of Cherie White­side.

Her time in China has impacted her design ability by making her bold in attempting new things – big­ger and more ostentatious silhou­ettes.

A model wearing a ‘Moana’ design by Samson Lee on the final day of the Bottega Gold Fijian Fashion Festival. Photo: Simione Haranavanua

A model wearing a ‘Moana’ design by Samson Lee on the final day of the Bottega Gold Fijian Fashion Festival. Photo: Simione Haranavanua

I particularly love how she super­imposed vibrant roses over tradi­tional masi patterns.

I feel that the combining of the traditional with the contemporary is the direction our industry is heading to as a whole.


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