By Vanessa Gordon

To move the world we must first move ourselves”- Socrates

Socrates challenges us to be the change we want to see in the world.

He implores us to start within. If we want to see change - real change- we have to start with ourselves,then the movement takes place. Then magic happens we influence our family, our community, our clans, tribes and villages and then the region.

The women behind The Pacific Fashion Festival are committed to positive change led by founder Cassaundra Rangip. The team work tirelessly to raise awareness of gender-based violence in the Pacific.The team consists of individuals from all over the multicultural diaspora from Papua New Guinea, Australia, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati and Sudan. There is a large team behind the scenes including Unga Tupou, Miriam Ratu-Fairhead, Sophia Finter, Deborah Fenwick, Kathy Jaeger, Donna Simard, Letila Mitchell, Nola Rasmussen, Erue Bucher, Sarah Jackson, Renee Chambellant and Tate Maen-Wickham.

Sadly violence is a prevalent issue within the Pacific Islands. Issues include gender-based violence, domestic violence, sorcery related violence, youth, community and family violence.

Established in 2014, the Pacific Fashion Festival hasproven that this event is more than a fashion show;they are advocating against violence.

The Pacific Fashion Festival’s commitment to move our part of the world through fashion is piquing interest within Pacific communities in Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, New Zealand, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Hawaii, Kiribati, Niue and other nations in the region.

They have been instrumental in social change within the Pacific neighbourhood simply by being consistent with their vision and motto to create, collaborate and empower the pacific community through infinite channels of fashion and freedom of expression.

How does a fashion festival influence social change? It starts a conversation and then festival gains attention. Cassaundra Rangip reiterated the importance of cultural identity and family values and how fashion is another platform in which we can elaborate on the issues that are affecting our communities. She speaks with utmost passion for a cause that she has dedicated her life to “In this shrinking globe we need to preserve our identity through indigenous ownership”

People are curious they want to know more they want to be a part of the extravagant spectacle they also want to look good and feel good. Studies show that our mood can be affected by what we wear. If we feel good, we look good and hopefully we do good.

The Pacific Fashion Festival team do a lot of good!

They campaign year round advocating against gender-based domestic violence. Each year proceeds from the festival goes towards organisations and charities within a Pacific nation.

This year proceeds go towards a non-government organisation called Femili PNG based in Lae Papua New Guinea of which their head office is in Canberra.

Femili PNG assists survivors of gender-based violence to access services such as medical, psycho-social care, police protection, legal services and vocational training.

The Pacific Fashion Festival recently held it's fifth showcase at Cloudland in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. Stepping into the venue was like stepping into a fairy tale. I was in absolute awe. The setting was beautiful. It took my breath away.

This is my third festival that I have been to and I must say the team out did themselves this year. The 2018 theme was The Secret Garden, guests were encouraged to wear white which represents a stance against domestic violence.

As each guest arrive you could hear the gasp as they each caught their breath in astonishment at the beautiful display of greenery and floral arrangements. Visuals Manager Miriam Ratu created a space that invoked feelings of wonder.

Event Manager Kathy Jaeger worked the room like a magician waving her wand directing models, photographers, attending to VIP’s and the technical crew it was a real buzz.

Then it was showtime!

The show opened with Pacific Fashion Festival’s in-house label LIDA designed by PNG born and raised designer Deborah Fenwick in collaboration with it’s founder, Cassaundra Rangip. Lida’s Retro line started the showcase with the crowd unanimously gasping for air in between ‘oooh’s and ahhhh’s” admiring the textures, and colours that donned the stage.

What followed was an afternoon of splendour of entertainment from Cook Islands dance group, Drums of the Pacific, Kiribati dancers from Neiko & Co, Milne Bay ‘tapioca’ traditional dance from Milne Bay Social Group and Iane Tavo’s Fijian contemporary solo act from Rako Pasefika.

Emcee extraordinaire Sulieni Layt took us on a journey through the Pacific as he introduced each of the other twelve designers in English and also in their national language. Some designers were introduced in three languages.

The beauty of being a Pacific Islander is that our cultural attire is an intricate part of our identity. We wear our culture. Whether it be the laplap, the sulu, the puletasi, the kiekie, the Ta’ovala with the masi or tapa print our dress is just as relevant as our language.

The beauty of the pacific is that even though we are many we are Melanesians, Polynesians and Micronesians there is unity.

We are so different and yet so much alike.

Guest speaker Andrew Fa’avale elaborated on the subject of cultural identity and the “importance of inviting other cultures to celebrate who we are…Andrew explained that “fashion can tell us a lot about who we are and where we come from fashion can tell us about a community and signifies the values of the community”

Andrew addressed the issue of family violence and used the meaning of the male Samoan tattoo Pe’a to describe the expectations of our men and the role they play in the family.

Andrew laments that “the expectations of our ancestors are not being met, suicide rate of Pasifka men is one of the highest, men are hurting themselves, their families and hurting others…hurt people hurt people.”

His powerful words resonated with the audience. We sat in silence and held on to his words. We ached for a generation that are not living up to the expectations of our ancestors.

I sat and watched intrigued as each designer showcased their labels. Each piece had a story behind the design. And each model stood like royalty and strut the stage like queens and kings. There was a design for every age, shape and size.

The hours of rehearsals, the year of planning, the logistics, the blood, sweat and tears surely paid off.

Special mention to the designers and the seamstresses without their gift to create there would be nothing to showcase.

I look forward to seeing more of their designs and most of all wearing their creations!

You can source their labels via the Pacific Fashion Festival 2018 website.

I walked away proud.

I walked away with thoughts and ideas.

How can I contribute to this cause?

How can my voice or my hands or my words be used to be part of the change?

There were at least a hundred if not more men and women that walked away with the same emotions and maybe the same questions how can they be part of the change?

This is exactly how this platform can influence change.

“To move the world we must first move ourselves”

Designers :

Deborah Fenwick - LIDA

Hupfeld Hoeder - Hupfeld Hoerder Designs

Rachel Fairfax - RFx Designs

Shakira Forstpointer - Wild Child and Collection

LizMary Saga - Aku’Paipai

Monalisa Palu - RM

Sarah Jackson - S.K.J

Letila Mitchell - Rako

Regina Saka - Saka

Elizabeth Omeri- Denani

Jude Paisawa - Suligeli

Jessie Kaur - Jessie K

Sue Tinielu- Sulu Designs