• Christopher Lam

Opinion: Keeping on as a local designer and creative in PNG

In recent years, the increased interest of indivduals, especially with young people in fashion design and the creative industry has seen an exciting uptick. Whether it be hand crafted, drawn or digital, the space is now blooming with new names daring to step into this exciting and colorful world. Tailoring and sewing has always been around and have set the foundations for designers, but in this piece I refer more to designers as brands, with a distinct style and following.

But even though we’re seeing this upward trend, there is still a common factor that most of us still face - financial sustainability. This is now even more heightened living and operating in the current coronavirus pandemic. There are many reasons for this, and every designer experiences it differently. It could be due to high rental retail spaces, lack of quality materials, financial access or limited pathways for growth. There are so many reasons.

For us at KVL Studios, we ourselves experienced a few of these difficulties starting out with our brand Barata, and we understand just how challenging it can be to keep on. This is why in 2018 we introduced The Undrground Collective, a pop-up shop style show where new collections are put on debut and are available for sale immediately, allowing designers to make their returns back on shown collections. We run this event with two amazing local designers, Natasha Tamanabae of Baiwa and Tabu Warupi of TABU. We’re currently planning the next TUC event.

We’re playing our part in addressing this issue, and for our other colleagues in the space killing it and making it, we applaud you and encourage other designers out there that you can also do it. If you‘re new and need help, please feel free to reach out to us.

Now, what about the greater market? In today’s internet-based world, more retailers are shifting online to sell and interact with their customers, and PNG is no exception to that. There are many local businesses who have set up and are taking orders online, including KVL - it works, except that when it comes to wider practice, there are many people who still don’t own a VISA or MasterCard to enable online purchases, and we’re still learning to become more tech savvy. We hope that we can see this change for the better in the near future.

That is why physical brick and mortar stores are still important for designers and creatives.

Local retailers like Glow Boutique in Port Moresby provides these much needed spaces for creative financial sustainability. From one location at Shady Rest Hotel a few years ago to now three spread accross the city, Glow partners and stocks PNG made and designed apparel, accessories, artefacts and more, making it an ideal place to shop local without compromising on quality. In the process, brands like Sepik Sisters (accessories), Niugini Native (clothing, accessories) and our own brands Barata and Claytn are able to find financial sustainability.

(L-R) Ziya Rayani (Glow), Wandid Amini-Korimbo (Niugini Native), Chris Lam (KVL Studios)

By the way, Happy two year anniversary Glow and Barata!

To end, some solutions we think are needed to make financial sustainability greater for designers:

- More wider acceptance and usage of online payment systems

- Shop local by local consumer awareness

- Smoother financial access

- More access to growth pathways such as fashion shows

Shopping local not only gives you, the customers a unique product, but also helps to keep our businesses going. It allows us to create and innovate more new designs and products for you, and in the grand scheme of things, helps to keep the kina in our economy. And this extends to counterfeits - next time you’re deciding on a PNG designed shirt, hat or earring, make an informed buyer decision. Choose to go local by local, because when we support each other, we all grow together.


- Chris

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