Celebrating Pacific Island Culture

During the past three years, fashion companies have ramped up collaborative activities with designers, celebrities, and labels from underrepresented communities, in an effort to diversify their industry. That includes seeking out partners hailing from the Pacific Islands, which are situated across a vast area of the Pacific Ocean, extending from the U.S. West Coast to Australia and New Zealand. Pacific Islanders involved in collaborations hail from Hawaii as well as French Polynesia, Fiji, American Samoa, and many other places, and their designs typically incorporate imagery and colors associated with the islands’ native cultures and geographies.

A cross-section of initiatives includes:

  • Perry Ellis’ partnership with Tua Tagovailoa, quarterback of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, announced in September 2023. The long-term deal consists of a brand ambassadorship, with collaborative products being part of the mix. A collection inspired by the athlete’s Hawaiian-Samoan heritage is planned for summer 2024, with elements such as mountains, the ocean, and the flowers and foliage of the islands being incorporated into the designs.
  • Hurley’s latest collaboration with Hawaiian American Olympic surfer Carissa Moore’s Moore Aloha brand, announced in May 2023. The 38-piece collection of swimwear and apparel for women and girls was the third joint collection between the two partners and incorporated prints by Hawaiian artist Aloha de Mele. It was sold in surf shops and department stores. Previously, in December 2022, Moore partnered with CocoNene and artist Frankie Frank, both of Hawaii, for a 25-piece, limited-edition collection of picture frames, wall art, ornaments, keychains, luggage tags, and other décor items.
  • Kohl’s stores’ latest Sonoma Community spotlight collection in honor of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month in April 2023. One of the featured designers was Indo-Fijian interdisciplinary artist Shyama Kuver, who—along with another artist, Emma Daisy, a Milwaukee-based Korean adoptee—created throws, pillows, candles, tops, and other items that reflected their respective heritages.
  • Eric Blanc’s collection with Moreno Marcos, a couture designer based in Brisbane, Australia, which debuted in 2022. The Samoan designer, born in New Zealand, highlighted tapa cloth, a fabric that holds cultural significance with indigenous Pacific populations, in a range dubbed MASIOFO, the Samoan word for queen.
  • REDValentino’s 2021 collaboration with three Native Hawaiian designers, Manaloa Yap, Kēhaulani Nielson, and Kini Zamoa. The label’s Sloane Street, London, store highlighted the capsule during the Chelsea in Bloom Festival. Each of the designers created a fabric pattern inspired by Pele, goddess of volcanoes and legendary creator of the Hawaiian Islands, and her sister Hiʻiaka. The label had previously generated controversy by unknowingly using a native Hawaiian quilt pattern in a design, and this collaboration was intended to make things right. The collection was put together after consultations among the label, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and the Paʻi Foundation, whose mission is to preserve Native Hawaiian cultural and artistic traditions.

Of course there have been collections featuring designers, celebrities, and brands with ties to the Pacific Islands in the past as well—Gap’s pairing with the Hawaiian brand Quality Peoples in summer 2018 is one example—but the practice has certainly intensified in the past few years, not just during AANHPI Heritage Month but year-round.

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