Mar 27, 2017 Last Updated 12:15 AM, Mar 15, 2017

Koila’s House

Scion of chiefly family turns fashion heads

KOILA Ganilau is descended from two of the most powerful households in Fiji – the Ganilaus from Somosomo, Cakaudrove and the Maras of Lakeba, Lau. Both families have connections to every conceivable branch of nobility in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Hawaii, Maohi (French Polynesia) and Aotearoa, New Zealand. But Ganilau is intent on branching away from the family firm and making a name for herself in the House of Koila under the fashion label Maramadina.

The business involves design of fabric, island wear, beach wear and Pacific fashion based on contemporary, original ideas using colour and flair. It’s not been easy. The business was born in 1991 with the gem of an idea gleaned from watching a bevy of beautiful aunts parade the catwalks of Suva in the late 1980s.

In 2007 Ganilau joined Jacks of Fiji as an in-house designer, taking with her the vision of the Maramadina label. “I’ll always be grateful to Jacks for that opportunity to create new designs and expose the label for people to see, appreciate and enjoy,” Ganilau said. Five turbulent years later after designing for others and a particularly rough domestic situation it was time to move out of the comfort of Jacks and into the competitive world.

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Out of the shadows

Fashion emerges as new business

IN a span of 10 years, fashion has emerged as a growing new industry in Fiji. This is evidenced in the fact that Fiji Fashion Week (FJFW) celebrates its 10th anniversary this May with a gold theme representing not only glitz and glamour but compassion, courage and passion.

As managing director of FJFW, Ellen Whippy-Knight - who is likely to hand over the management at the end of this year - said that in the last 10 years, the Pacific had found something that they were good at doing. But, she warned, they needed a boost and further development. “I just think that over the last 10 years, we have created an industry, a platform for the government to understand that fashion is a business - an industry that has jobs for every single person who wants to be involved.

“If you think of what the suppliers do to make this industry work, you couldn’t have it done without the machinist, without the stylist, without the cotton, the needles, and basically, you wouldn’t be able to have a dress if you didn’t have the supplies, ” Whippy-Knight said.

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SIX years ago, a physically challenged woman in a wheelchair ventured out into the streets to sell her home-made meals and pastries. At the time, she met with disapproval from people she knew. The local authorities didn’t make it any easier for her. But she didn’t give up.

Today, 55-year-old Taina Foss, nee Shaw of Nukuwatu, Lami, is an established small micro entrepreneur who reckons she is richer than most blue-collar workers. She epitomizes physical disability being a non-deterrent against one’s endeavor to succeed in life. “I didn’t want to depend on anyone. When I started, people disagreed – sitting by the curb in my wheelchair doing this,” she said as she waved her hand to the knee-high table next to her upon which one will find an array of pastries, roti parcels, fresh seasonal fruit drinks to name just a few items she sells.

“They said it didn’t look good for a disabled person to sit in public doing that. “Today, I think I make more money than those with better jobs, because on Mondays they’re at my door asking for money – my credit book is full of names.” Through her peddling, the widow and mother of four, solely supports her youngest offspring, a 15-year old fourth form student of Cathedral Secondary School. 

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More work, fewer workers

Deadline looms for Northern Mariana Islands

ONCE the clock turns 12 midnight on December 31, 2019, a cloud of uncertainty would hang in the air in the Northern Mariana Islands. That is the expiration date of the CNMI - only transitional worker nonimmigrant visa program, better known as “CW-1.” The CW-1 program allows eligible foreign laborers to work in the CNMI while giving their employers ample time to change some of their hiring practices toward acquiring more from the local workforce or transitioning their guest workers to suitable US work visas if ever they want to keep their services.

The program, a unique work visa classification from other US states and territories, encourages businesses and other companies to employ more local residents or US citizens, eventually allowing foreign workers to find alternative immigration status before the transition period ends. It was established through the 2008 Consolidated Natural Resources Act or Public Law 110-229 that puts a cap on the number of foreign workers that decreases every year until it reaches zero after 2019.

The foreign worker permit system was only a five-year program that began in 2009 and should have ended in 2014 but the US Citizenship and Immigration Service granted the CNMI government another five-year extension that’s why the 2019 deadline. Governor Ralph Torres, however, along with CNMI Delegate Gregorio Sablan and the business community—

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I MET a fascinating business woman this week, and she doesn’t much want to be identified, just to let people know of her products. It’s the sort of occupation which has since forever engrossed the natives of the highest Italian Alps as summer faded from the horizon. Turning the fragrances of the romantic months into an aroma which reminds the people there of the now passed happier times helps the citizenry endure the long and chilly dark days and nights to come.

I’ll let her tell her own story ... “My little project started in June 2015 when visiting some of my family in Italy and discovering how a particular scent could typify a village or a community. I felt it a shame we have nothing like it in Vanuatu, especially given all the redolent and sweet smelling scents we are always exposed to around the islands. And whilst I was on an island in Tuscany I met parfumiers and started exploring the different combinations of scents and how they could be produced from the top notes to the bottom notes and essential oils that really make the recipes work.

“I knew we could make a perfumery work in Vanuatu. We have! “I undertook work with professional perfumiers getting advice from everyone in the business and exploring the fragrances I knew from my years in the islands. Friends and family assisted this voyage into the unknown. 

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