Aisea’s gypsy dreams

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Desinger Aisea Konrote with models wearing his dresses at a fashion show. Picture: SUPPLIED/FT FILE

Glamour stirred his fashion interest but it’s really the challenge and difficulty of getting a collection from vision to the runway that drives Aisea Konrote.

Trading under the Hefrani label, this is a designer whose garments have been on all the major runways of the Fijian fashion industry.

While he has shone on other out-of-Suva fashion platforms in recent years, this year he makes a comeback to the Fiji Fashion Week (FJFW) runway with a collection that speaks of resilience.

“It has been challenging, however, I feel that’s the beauty of it as I do push myself to the edge by being more innovative and creative, as well as being practical, in my designs to suit our climate,” Konrote said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic got me re-evaluating my designs many times again to meet the current situation, both financially and without compromising on creatively.”

What sets Hefrani apart from other labels – and it’s a trait that is by design, not coincidence – is Aisea has a knack for creating flowy and feminine styles of clothing. It is so distinctive a style that no one has been able to duplicate the Hefrani signature look.

Aisea is a favourite among designers who produce resort wear and his biggest fashion advice is “to always be yourself because whatever you wear depicts you”.

When asked what his fashion tip was, his go-to garment was a good sarong or sulu vaka toga which, according to him, could become appropriate for any event depending on how it was styled.

His collections take a page out of the sarong book in that many of his garments can be tied in different ways making it possible for anyone of any size or modesty to wear comfortably.

Often made with rich, luxurious, sheer fabric such as chiffon, rayon and silk, the Hefrani look is always cool to the touch and very romantic to look at but can also be quite expensive to acquire.

“Sourcing materials from abroad has not impacted my process as over the past few years, I have locally sourced all my materials because just through experience, knowing the type of fabric I need that’s relevant to my designs.”

Originally from the island of Rotuma, although born and bred on the mainland, Hefrani draws on the traditions and culture of the Pacific Islands to inspire his designs.

It’s a style that takes in the beauty of the islands while promoting appreciation of the environment with a particular emphasis on the ocean and the land.

Often, Aisea allows his colours and cuts to also be influenced by major events and has produced collections that were about the climate or often used colours of the season in which a collection was released.

“This year, the need to rise above the pandemic has inspired the title of my collection, Phoenix Rising, however, a change from a solid runway to the sandy beach has resulted in my renaming my collection, Gypsy Dreams. The colours remain prominently red with clusters of silver and glitter.”

His favourite feature of the collection is the boldness of the colours and the bohemian style to produce a collection he hopes will inspire strength, hope and comfort.

“This collection is aimed at everyone and anyone who is affected by the pandemic but as mentioned earlier, the colours used with glitter signify that we must shine our way high above the darkness the pandemic brought about.”

Aisea’s Hefrani label will feature at the FJFW Resort Luxe Show to be held at the Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa on Saturday, November 28.

  • Lice Movono is a freelance writer and communications specialist
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