Papua New Guinea Fashion Week is a runway success

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Papua New Guinea’s annual fashion week is giving the country’s designers a leg up onto the national and international catwalk. Grace Maribu reports.

Runway success. Credit: PNGFWD

Into its fourth year, Papua New Guinea’s annual Fashion and Design Week (PNGFWD) has emerged as a major platform for the fashion and design industry in the country.

Since the first runway in 2016, more components have been added to the program, including master classes and training for up-and-coming designers in fabric printing, pattern and marketing and communications.

It’s estimated that more than 200 designers have received assistance of some sort.

Two runway fashion shows are scheduled this year, in Kokopo on June 29 and in Port Moresby on September 7, and from that event three designers will be chosen to showcase their work at the Pacific International Runway in Sydney, Australia, in November 2019.

The Founder and Director of PNGFDW and Chairperson of PNG Fashion Festival 2019, Janet Sios, is excited about the momentum the event has generated.

‘I think the biggest thing for me is that we’ve created an industry that never existed before,’ she says.

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‘Another impact is that we are seeing a lot of Papua New Guineans feeling proud to wear PNG designs,’ Sios says.

Business potential

‘The potential here is so great. In Fiji, the Fiji Fashion Week drives the industry, so PNG Fashion and Design Week should drive the industry in PNG.’

Unlike Fiji, considered the fashion hub of the smaller Pacific countries, PNG is only just beginning to explore fashion and design.

‘We are seeing a los of Papua New Guineans feeling proud to wear PNG designs.’

According to a recent report posted by the Fiji National University, Fiji employs over 8000 people in the apparel industry, generating some US$110 million (K339 million).

Sios launched her first runaway under the theme of ‘Tribal Design of PNG’. In 2017 the theme was ‘Climate Change’ while 2018 provided the opportunity to design for the ‘Plus Size’. This year, PNGFDW draws the spotlight on people living with disabilities, with the theme ‘Making Fashion Inclusive and Accessible for All.’

Emerging talent

Designs from the 2018 show. Credit: PNG Fashion Week

Because of its holistic approach to fashion and design, PNGFDW has received funding support from The Australian Government worth K500,000. The US and Indian governments have also provided financial assistance.

Designers to emerge through PNGFWD include Anna Amos, Florence Jaukae, Sarah Haida-Todd, Tabu Pelei Warupi, Anneette Sete, Natasha Tamanabae, Kenny Ng and Robin Morove.

Jaukae, who specialises in bilum products, has showcased in Europe through PNGFWD, as had Haida-Todd. Amos and Warupi have participated in the Syndey runway and are now trainers leading PNGFWD workshops.

One of the biggest challenges facing the industry is manufacturing. With no apparel manufacturing industry in PNG, many designers are sending their work to Fiji for production, both in print and construction.

Sios says this is handicapping PNG designers and she is urging government support for the garment industry, She says it could be a bona fide revenue earner for the country.

‘Fashion and design is a serious industry in the world, but in pNG there its a wrong perception that it is only a “hobby”,’ she says.

This story which was first published in the July-August edition of Paradise, the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini. 

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