WOMEN OF THE ISLANDS - PAULA CHAN
I’m a fashion designer by trade and I more or less, design & sew garments for people, especially wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses. I love designing for different individuals and creating a style, a design, from just by spending a bit of time and talking to the clients about what they want. I do contemporary and traditional designs, it depends on the fashion show function or event.
What are some of the most challenging and rewarding moments in your field?
The most challenging is working with girls who want to enter Miss Samoa pageants or you know other competitions because I find a lot of young, Polynesian women brought up here in New Zealand, their concept of culture is totally different to my concept of culture. When designing dresses for pageants, my interpretation of traditional stuff is totally different from their view of traditional. So I more less look at the culture side of things and design accordingly and add a bit of a western idea to it. And to see the girls transform from a young girl to a lady, when they wear my garments is rewarding. And for them to compete and achieve, get somewhere, that’s also a rewarding part.
How important is it to bring a Pasifika perspective to what you do?
It is very important because a lot of Polynesian girls nowadays always think about their culture and they want to have culture in their life. So for example, when I did my niece Maree’s wedding dresses, She wanted me to incorporate some culture aspect, some Samoan culture into her wedding dress. So the idea that came to mind was to use fine mat in her wedding dress with European material like laces and chiffon. So in the end Maree was very happy with the design that we put together for her wedding dress.
What do you love most about being Islander today?
Being an Islander today, I think seeing young people, more or less, respect and embrace the culture. We’ve come a long way. Island people today are more educated now and are more westernized in their thinking, it’s not really a bad thing, but they still have that respect for their culture.
What’s inspiring to you about the future?
Enjoying semi-retirement life. Doing work when I can. I’ve got bridesmaids for a wedding in June that I’m working on at the moment, otherwise I’m just enjoying life at the moment … Taking it as it comes.