Pacific Fashion’s rapid growth this year is being celebrated on runways in NZ, Australia and the Pacific! One very talented young emerging designer is making waves with his eye-catching and colourful designs that bring out the beauty of Pasifika young women.

Meet Sydney-based Tongan designer Iki Lolohea Ha’angana, 28, a graduate of Raffles College of Design and Commerce in Australia and owner of Island TKM which will feature at the Pacific Runway Fashion this Friday night, October 21st at the Dockside Pavilion in Sydney.

We have a little chit-chat to Iki in between his busy schedule!

Iki hard at work Island TKM
Iki hard at work Island TKM

So how long has Island TKM been running?

Island TKM is still in it’s very early stages. I started Island TKM in September of last year (2015) so you could say I’m still learning to walk. It’s still baby days.

How did you start your business?

I used to work at Myers and while I was working there during the day, I was moonlighting as a designer through the night. At one point I didn’t sleep for almost a week because I was incredibly busy on both ends and it took a toll on me. As much as I adored Myers and the people I worked with, I had to bid my farewells and from here the first stage of Island TKM was born.

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Who do you run the business with?

Island TKM is currently a mother-son duo. For the time-being I do everything from inspiration concepts, design and developments, patternmaking and sewing, and my mother assists in the sewing stage.

What is the inspiration behind your designs? And what makes your clothes unique?

I believe it’s my approach to my designs that makes me unique. I approach my designing process from an admiration of current trends and street-wear influences. I also let music influence my designs. My interest in the world of K-pop for example lets me experiment with different types of fabrics. I love contrasting fabrics and colours, mixing leather, mesh and lace and playing with materials that normally people wouldn’t have thought to use.

Have you always loved fashion?

Here’s the thing, my grandmother was a seamstress.  She taught my mother and now I run with the baton. But I didn’t touch a sewing machine until I was 19.

My love and obsession for fashion came to me differently. I originally wanted to be a graphic designer/artist. But when I turned 18, I won a $5000.00 shopping spree for a national t-shirt design competition and it was from here where I wanted to learn more about the clothing industry. I enrolled in a fashion course and it completely opened my eyes to the amazing world of fashion. It’s more than just the t-shirts we wear – it’s entertainment, it’s literature, it’s history, and it’s a symbol of status and so much more.

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How did the name Island TKM come about?

The abbreviation ‘TKM’ stands for Tangi Kihe Mo’oni, which is the name of my house. It is also where I do my work – it’s my studio. When my father was still alive he approached our reverend to name our home and when he opened up his bible these were the first words he saw. Tangi Kihe Mo’oni to me translates to ‘cry for the truth’.  My father was a revered person and honesty was one of his main personality traits.  It fits him to a tee and so I’ve dedicated my business as a homage to my late father. It’s personal for me.  And the ‘Island’ that I put in front is my connection to all of Polynesia.

What are your thoughts on Pacific Island fashion at this time?

I am extremely happy about PI fashion at this very moment in time. In Sydney alone we have designers such as Island TKM, Lepou, JoLi Elei, MKG and Bayvick Designs just to name a very few, taking island fashion to an amazing platform and to a new place that helps us grow together. I’m very optimistic about the future of Pacific Island fashion and I’m really excited to be a part of Pacific Runway Fashion 2016, an amazing fashion platform for emerging and established designers from around the Pacific at large. I honestly cannot wait for this event. If I could I’d fill the rest of this page with excited happy face emoji’s lol.

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Who are your personal favourite designers?

My all time favourites are Donatella Versace and the guys from Dsquared2. Both are from Italy and don’t take themselves too seriously. Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy and Olivier Rousteing of Balmain are also among some of my faves. However within Australia I am obsessed with Maticevski, Alex Perry and Sass&Bide. These are the designers I look up to at the moment but it definitely changes from year to year depending on the direction of their collections.

What would you say to those wanting to start up a business especially in fashion?

I say just go for it and learn everything as you go. I feel as though I wasted too many years waiting for certain circumstances to happen and waiting for the right people to come along but if you just start, which is the big step here, and you do right by people, then everything should come to you in time. And if it fails, learn from it and try again. You also should keep a positive mindset.  You have to, it’s vital!

You can purchase Island TKM clothing by visiting his Facebook page facebook.com/islandtkm

Purchase tickets to Pacific Runway Fashion 2016, Sydney here. 

Don’t forget to enter our draw for a chance to win a VIP pass to the event courtesy of our friends at the Samoa Business Network. Simply message us on the SUGA Magazine Facebook Page or use the contact form on our page and tell us why you’d love to attend! 

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