• Christopher Lam

A different approach - The Underground Collective

The Fashion Scene in Papua New Guinea has over the years seen an exciting flourish. It wasn’t too long ago that the first proper fashion shows came into existence to provide our designers a platform to share their creativity, which has resulted in the emergence of many new designers. Shows like Stella Runway, PNG Fashion Week, PNG Fashion & Design Week and the Miss Pacific Island’s Pageant Project Runway have all contributed in ways that has, and continues to, show light on the creativity of Papua New Guineans that is bursting at the seams.

Over the years I have worked behind the scenes in producing a couple of big shows in Port Moresby, with my last project being the 2017 PNG Fashion & Design Week ‘Climate Change’ Runway. It was a great night of fashion that debuted new designers like Heai Ugava of Ma’mana and Relvie Kalip of Rel’s ADI Fashion. As producers we appreciate when designers wow audiences, it gives us great pleasure in knowing we’ve contributed in helping our designers get out there.

But from observance over the years, there still seems to be one key element of shows that’s missing, and it’s ironically the designers. While there have been platforms that has given designers huge branding opportunities, designers still miss out when they can’t make a sale.

Here’s a scenario: A designer makes a collection of 10 pieces for a show, but sells only 2-4 pieces. The rest of the collection unfortunately doesn’t sell, and simple economics of this means a loss for the designer, if that is only what they have to sell and if the show does not have a set up for them to sell.

This is a real scenario that designers like Natasha Tamanabae of ‘Baiwa’ and Tabu Warupi of ‘Tabu’ has experienced in their years of designing. And this is why I have collaborated with them to create ‘The Underground Collective’, a collective of designers that seeks to look at ways where we can give designers more to help their brands become financially sustainable. We want to see shows that will have more prominence for designer sales than the shows themselves. We want to see more buyer and seller relationships.

And we will do this starting with a small event in December, featuring designers Baiwa, Tabu and Barata, who will be debuting our new collection apart from headwear. More details of this will be released soon.

The tide has already turned as we see new designers every year, bursting with talent. And I believe that it is only going to get more exciting from here on for this budding industry.

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