My darling friend who has recently opened the doors of her small garment boutique sits across me with paint stained fingers and tired eyes.
She smiles at me in her usual bigger than life warm manner, fussing over my comfort as I eat her lunch.
She is exhausted from lack of sleep again, having spent the previous night hand printing fabrics which boasts her grandmother’s signature designs. In her little shop here in the cool heights of Vailima, filled with the bright colors of her creative mind, she bustles around me to organize the day’s orders.
Her grandmother who lovingly minds the shop in the mornings has just left, leaving behind a myriad of instructions on what my friend needs for the next orders, the faults in a current design and the kind of hanger we need for displaying each delicately printed garment. They are mirrors of each other, generations apart, the creators of Pele Creations.
The story of Pele Creations is filled with the rich history of our now promising garment industry.
It is a story embedded in generations of love and passion for our unique elei hand prints and resort wear. I am told it started with an imprint caused by a fallen frangipani flower on a freshly hand printed fabric that was laid out to dry by my friend’s grandmother.
Many will remember Carol and Mark in the 1960s and 70s, the original home of Pele Creations, where an iconic woman wove into her designs from the canvas of her creative mind, what is now signature prints of Pele Creations. You will see imprints of the fallen frangipani and tropical leaves on any Pele, a symbol of how it touched the heart of its creator.
My friend’s grandmother is one who personifies gorgeous at thirty and irresistible the rest of her life.
She is in her eighties now and is our Coco Chanel, a picture of elegance and grace, still very sharp and still very entrepreneurial. She lovingly laughs and in banter she says her granddaughter is no business woman. She does agrees that this younger version of her has taken on most of her working traits.
My friend’s mother is another razor sharp mind that give support and in this environment surrounded with awe inspiring individuals, I see the magic that surrounds Pele. I do beg to differ with our Coco Chanel, her granddaughter, my childhood friend is every bit as entrepreneurial.
Today, my friend and her aunt work with fabrics from underneath the shelters of her garage, humble beginnings filled with years of experience in the art of hand printing.
The shop boasts many of the same frangipani prints from her grandmother’s art, speaking volumes of the thoughts and feelings my friend continues to paint on her modern garment designs.
She carries with pride the reviving of her grandmother’s work with garments and reflects much on the love and support of the hard working women in her family who have all taken part in the birth and revival of Pele Creations.
Despite the fatigue, and having dozed on a chair in the wee hours of dawn because she was watching a fabric dry, she buzzes with excitement on the story behind her recent creation. Each unique hand print her customer takes from the shop has a panorama story attached, the whole garment being created at a certain time, mostly when us mere mortals are snug in our beds. Her passion drives her she says. She has had her shares of ups and downs in her efforts to make her mark in the private sector, but name someone you know who has not had their steel strengthened in fire.
In recent times I have sat with my sister at the Sinnet Fashion Show and watched in awe as modern Samoan designers of our generation breathe life into the garment industry with their take on today’s fashion. Social media is abuzz with the likes of Pele Creations, MaugaLui, Rupi, Eveni Pacific, Koko Pacific and Enara to name a few. They follow the roads taken by Mena, Cecilia Keil, Kara, Gardenia Hinano, and many who pave the way for Samoa’s garment industry. These are the creative minds that now give inspiration to a new generation of elei printers, Samoan designers, Samoan models, photographers, hair stylists and the list is endless. We see the ever mounting presence and support of our community who gather to celebrate this new wave of passionate young Samoans who are also taking the international stage in their strides.
I love to watch life at its best, watching people make use of their God given gifts. I draw strength from inspiring people and stories from the likes of my friend and her grandmother. My friend, whose paint stained fingers and tired looks reflect her determination to realize her dream in carrying on with her grandmother’s exquisite hand prints. I often smile at her own disbelief in her creations, I wish I could show her the amazing artist I see and the magic that is Pele. But I know my friend, her work is also a tribute of love for her family, her grandmother most of all.
O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. Psalms.
Blessed Sunday Samoan!