Category Archives: World Fashion Series

Forging a new way: Diamond Langi

For most little girls when asked what their career aspirations are the immediate answers are usually Actor, Model, and Singer.  Many of us hold tight to those dreams but with time, they become a faded and distant memory.  For me these memories always resurface around fashion week when I’m sitting in the audience watching the endless parade of beautiful statuesque models streaming down the runway and think to myself, “W-O-W!!!”…

One little girl who never allowed herself to think that there was even the slightest possibility that she could not achieve all of the career aspirations she set forth for herself is, Diamond Langi.  Diamond is a Model, Singer and Actress who currently resides in Sydney, Australia.  This seasoned professional holds over 7 years of modelling experience (i.e. editorial, commercial, beauty, and runway) and being the lead singer for 3 different bands it is very difficult to believe that this this young artisan is only 21 years old.  Diamond’s ground breaking achievements in the fashion industry are aiding to help break down barriers while also putting an end to stereotypes that not only society has created but that our own Pasifika communities have erected.

I recently had the rare opportunity to chat with Diamond on her views of Pasifika Fashion, the different roadblocks and barriers she’s had to overcome, and what her advice would be to young Pasifika youth who have aspirations of following in her footsteps.  Check out CSM’s interview of Diamond Langi, Model, Singer and Actress:


CSM: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your cultural background…

DL: My name is Diamond Langi, I’m 21 years old, and my cultural background is Tongan. I love Singing, Acting & Modeling.


CSM: When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in modeling?

DL: At the young age of 6 years old is when I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in modeling.  I knew it’s what I wanted and I was not going to be told that it wasn’t possible.  I set a goal for myself and I pursued and now it’s a reality.


CSM: As a Pasifika woman, did you encounter obstacles in pursuing your modeling aspirations?

DL: Yes, there have been a lot due to what I believe in and stand for as a Polynesian woman.  My standards are really high so there are a lot of jobs that I have had to turn down and say “No” too because I want to show women, especially Polynesian women that you don’t have to lower your standards in order to achieve your goals and/or become successful.


CSM: How has your cultural background helped in your pursuit of your modeling career? (and or based on your background what makes your experience different from other models in the industry)

DL: My cultural background has helped me tremendously in the modeling world.  Through my culture I was taught at a very young age the importance of holding a high respect for myself  and to never deviate from what I stand for and to always stand and defend what I know is right.  This has helped define for me what my values are in life and what is wrong and right.


CSM: What was your favorite shoot that you’ve done and why?

DL: My favourite shoot so far was done in Tonga for Bou’s Fashion after running for Miss Heilala 2012 last year.  I have always been a fan of nature and for this shoot I didn’t wear any make-up and it really revealed me.  It was a chance to just be myself and show the world who I am.  This was all coupled with Tonga’s beautiful surroundings.  The simple and wonderous landscapes coupled with me being one with nature in having no make-up were just amazing.


CSM: Which Pasifika fashion designer would you love to model/walk in their next fashion show?

DL: I’m not really picky and I’m always happy to work with any Pasifika fashion designer but if I had to pick a few it would be Kapi Fonua, MENA, and Lavashe Couture.  Their work is absolutely amazing!


CSM: What key piece of advice would you share with the upcoming Pasifika youth interested in pursuing a modeling career?

DL: Never Change.  I know that everyone says this but it’s so true.  Your cultural background is your identity and the root in the ground as you start to blossom into a flower.

Diamond Langi



The woman behind London Pacific Fashion Week: Ana Lavekau

With the change of each new season most naturally associate this with a weather change but to those of us who live and breathe the fashion industry this change of season is a signal of the upcoming seasons’ crop of fashion shows and presentations highlighting next year’s key silhouettes, fabrications, colors and trends.  The four key fashion show weeks are held each season first in New York, followed by London, then Milan and is rounded out by Paris.  During fashion month designers from all over the world take the stage to showcase their what they envision as the signature looks we should be wearing for the upcoming season.

As a purveyor of fashion and regular at fashion week, I literally cheered out loud when I discovered London Pacific Fashion Show.  Discovering this fashion week is the central inspiration for why I created the Pasifika Fashion Series on CSM.  There are little to no outlets in America highlighting and celebrating the significant contribution my Pasifika community has made and continues to make to the Fashion industry.  As a “Fashion Jack(ie) of All Trades” I was not surprised that the woman behind the London Pacific Fashion Show also epitomizes this title.  Ana Lavekau’s official title is, Director of London Pacific Fashion but the various roles and hats she wears to help pull this fashion show off year after year is nothing short of awe inspiring.

I recently had the rare opportunity to chat with Ana on her views of Pasifika Fashion, the future of London Pacific Fashion Show, and what she manages to do in her spare time.  Check out CSM’s interview of Ana Lavekau, Director of London Pacific Fashion:

CSM: What inspired you to pursue a calling in fashion?

AL: After producing the first London Pacific Fashion Week I was inspired by all of those amazing and talented designers and I’ve been at it ever since.


CSM: Why did you decide to focus in on Pasifika Fashion?

AL: There is a lack of knowledge on Pacific Fashion/Design/Art in London so the fastest way to promote it to Londoners was to host a Pacific Fashion show collaborating all four elements from Pacific (Fashion/Dance/Opera/Art).


CSM: Of all of the many amazing London Pacific Fashion Shows that you have helped produce, which artist was the most memorable?

AL: I would certainly say that Lindah Lepou was by far the most memorable.  She is an inspiration to any emerging fashion designer from the Pacific.


CSM: There are a lot of up and coming Pasifika fashion/style talent coming up like Kapiliola Fonua, who is the next talent we should be on the look out for?

AL: Definitely be on the look out for New Zealand emerging designer, Louina Fifita.


CSM: What are your hopes for the future  of London Pacific Fashion Show/Week?

AL: I am coordinating a London Pacific Fashion Collective for the upcoming London Fashion Week during fashion month in September of this year.  It will be a one hour show that will highlight the best of the best from the South Pacific.  This is a rare and unique opportunity is so important because through this major vehicle we will be able to showcase our amazing designs and talent to the mainstream market.


CSM: With the few spare minutes you have in your day that aren’t dedicated to London Pacific Fashion Week, what do you like to do?

AL: I just launched my own apparel label, Reload Tribal earlier this month.  Reload Tribal is a modern brand of intimate apparel that promotes the art of story telling from the South Pacific, in particular from my home island of Fiji.  The really unique message of my brand is that it promotes the message of safe sex and with every piece that is sold a $1.00 donation will be made to the local charity Fiji Network Plus to help spread the message of safe sex to help bring more awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention.


Ana Lavekau, Director of London Pacific Fashion

Ana Lavekau, Director of London Pacific Fashion


CSM has a new look!

I seriously can’t believe that the day has finally arrived and I can finally unveil CSM’s new grown and sexy makeover!  When CSM first launched back in April 2011 it was because I needed a pure, raw and tangible outlet for all of the fashion ramblings and opinions I had about the industry.  Over the years you the CSM community have helped me to truely mold and define who and what CSM is and should be.  My initial outlet has become so much more than I would have ever expected and so to have undergone such an extensive and much needed makeover was truly empowering.

The first and major change is CSM’s defining logo!  I’m not going to bore you with the details, but I literally agonized over what the logo would be visually for the first 2 months of this 6 month makeover journey.  Thank goodness for creative design guru and web genius, Laura Granlund of inTIMIDnation for taking all of the feedback you all have given me over the years (and yes, I had it all stored up in my brain).  To now have an actual visual representation of CSM is legit incredible.  So if you are in need of anything graphic/web design related I would highly recommend reaching out to her (literally kept my sanity for these last few months-trust me ask my husband).

CSM's New Logo

Okay I digress, let me get back to CSM’s amah-zing transformation.  The next major change and is the more obvious one, I’M NOT ON BLOGGER ANYMORE!  Yup, CSM needed to put on her big girl panties on and step into the real world of blogging and that required a new handy URL and so naturally it’s  Now, you all can update your favorites with the new link and what’s even more handy is that the name is in the new URL so you’ll never forget it right?

These next few changes were all about me keeping you all in mind.  One big important change for you is that I wanted to make it as navigationally friendly as possible.  With that in mind  it was really important for me to have a ‘Categories’ tab front and center so that you all would know exactly what the content of CSM is plus you could drill directly into whichever specific category you were looking for and/or wanting to delve deeper in to.

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Another great addition is that you can see I still have all of the old categories you all love like “Pasifika Fashion Series”;  “Shop Local”; “Fashionable Dining” plus a few new ones like “WWAW” (What Would Ana Wear) and “Splurge vs. Save.

Now, peruse and make yourself at home because I’m looking forward to seeing more of you and for a longer time.  Next time, cocktails are a must! xo


[Pasifika Fashion Series] SOSS Nails: Providing Nail Crack for Nail Head Enthusiasts!

In case you have been sheltered and or living on a remote island with no access to the internet you know from my previous post (here) that your manicure is just as important of a fashion accessory as your choice of footwear.

There are quite a number of nail artists blazing the trail of transforming and re-defining this new industry, but one in particular is creating a truly unique niche that I couldn’t help but take notice.  Meet Soileti Hoko, the talented young Tongan woman behind the trailblazing company SOSS Nails.  As an art lover since birth the inspiration to take that love to the unconventional canvas of nails happened in 2010 and she hasn’t turned back since.  Soi’s infectious excitement and love for her craft are so evident that it is no surprise that this is what has continued to fuel her drive and continued aspiration to be one of the forefront entrepreneurs in the beauty industry.

As one of the many who worship at the altar of nail art, it is such a rush to discover the many new and constant innovations that are showcased on a daily basis.  Soi’s creation of a custom hand painted nail set is pure genius.  As if there were a possibility that this remarkable talent could be any more amazing, she wows with these custom hand painted nail sets.  If you are in Salt Lake City, UT don’t sleep on this young lady.  Get in now and get SOSS’d! (contact her here)

[Pasifika Fashion Series] Kapiliola Fonua, New Zealand’s next big talent!

Kapiliola Fonua is a young design student with a bright fashion design future ahead of him.  Of Tongan descent he moved to New Zealand from his native island of Tonga and drew inspiration from his early childhood there for this stunning piece.  Last week this beautiful piece he created was the overall winner of New Zealand Fashion Week’s ‘Remake Challenge’.

When I first initially seen his winning piece I was immediately floored by the intricate flower detailing of the bodice and the waterfall of petals of the hem.  The first image that jumped into my head was Azzedine Alaia’s   Fall 2011 collection that was full of laser cut-outs and floor length waterfall ruffles.

Then I learned the dress was constructed of Kleenex Cottonelle tissues!?! The perplexing notion that he was able to create such refined and intricate detailing for the bodice and those cascading petals caused me to experience two things: 1. Complete and utter elation for the future of the art of fashion 2. Longing and want for more of this brilliant young man’s talent.

Until young Kapi graduates I guess we all will just have to suffice with the opportunity to purchase his beautiful design (here) and eagerly wait in anticipation for the launch of his womenswear line.

*Photo Credit: trade me
Photos of Kapi’s dress:

[Pasifika Fashion Series] Telesa Trilogy Fashion…. well done CSM style

A few months ago there was buzz on my twitter timeline about Pasifika author, Lani Wendt Young and her YA book series,  Telesa Trilogy (‘Telesa: The Covenant Keeper’, ‘When Water Burns’, ‘The Bone Bearer’).  So when it dawned on me 2 weeks ago that I needed to find a new book to read, I decided to look more into Lani’s book series and little did I know that I would be heading down the path of becoming a Telesa enthusiast.

The first place I visited was her blog, Sleepless in Samoa, which is a daily chronicle to her life and her journey in writing her series.  I was captivated by her posts dedicated to character insights and analysis that before I knew it I was on ordering the 1st and 2nd book of her trilogy.  The really comical part was that I was so eager to receive my books that the day I received them I literally walked in the door to my condo, seen they had arrived, opened them up and sat down delved immediately into reading.

Reviewer, Ann Morgan, summarized so perfectly my experience while reading books one and two, “Lani has the knack of weaving traditions into the narrative without making their inclusion and explanation feel worthy or forced.  An enjoyable and engrossing book with a gripping story that whips the reader along.  The depiction of Leila’s struggles with identity, sexuality and society’s expectation will resonate with teens and ex-teens all over the world while its warm portrayal of Samoan culture gives it a character all its own.”**

While becoming enthralled by Leila’s story and her love for her soul mate & all around ‘good boy’, Daniel while at the same time discovering this new and unfamiliar and unwanted drawn attraction to ‘bad boy’ Keahi  I could not help but do what all of us do when we read.  I let my mind wander.  I began to create my visions for these characters and how they dressed, what fashions suit them best, and instantly I knew I had to do this post.  Not only for the mere fact of introducing to you a FANTASTIC new author that I am now a huge fan of but for the obvious; highlight the various fashions and ensembles I pictured the love triangle wearing.

To help give more of an established “face” to the three main characters Lani and her team have recruited the following models to represent each main character (although I do have to state for the record that they haven’t officially “chosen” the Keahi character pictured):

Now having a visual of a face, character background from the books it was almost instantaneous that I put on my “stylist” hat and the following character inspiration boards were curated:

Products (Clockwise): Alexis Bittar Earrings/ Mena Strapless Dress/ Alexis Bittar cocktail ring/ Charlotte Olympia Heels/ Current Elliott Shorts/ TopShop Tooth Pendant/ASOS ‘Love is the Answer’ Tee/ Alaia Leather Cut-out Flat Sandals

I’d love to hear your feedback after reading book one and two as to whether I nailed it with the ensembles.  Trust me, you will be finished in less than a matter of a few days because that’s just how spell bounding this story is.  I’m anxiously awaiting Lani’s release of the ‘The Bone Bearer‘ but rumor has it we might have to wait a little while longer because a novella of Daniel’s version of the story is soon to be released first…

*Photo Credit of main characters: Sleepless in Samoa
**Reviewer Comments: Text from ‘When Water Burns’

[Pasifika Fashion Series] Designer Spotlight-Hupfeld Hoerder

Designer, Hupfeld Hoerder pictured above with one of his models

Hupfeld Hoerder‘s designs are known for its signature hand prints of island motiffs and creatively merging authentic designs with contemporary.  He incorporates traditional with western fabrics to make his designs hold a strong sense of the Pacific and promotes the pasifika culture and traditions.

Hupfeld started designing whilst still completing his undergraduate studies at the University of the South Pacific almost 20 years ago.  Initially he started designing and making beach bags which eventually led to shift dresses and summer dresses.  Over the years and through experience he moved from casual resort wear to evening wear then found a niche market  in the Bridal industry in Fiji and Haute Couture.  Now he is focusing on taking another step to establish his brand overseas and to find other markets to sell his beautiful works of art.

Having shown at NYFW in 2009 and continuously showcasing successful collections at the World Fashion Week (WFW) in the Bahamas season after season, he is definitely a name to be on the look out for.  See the other installments in my Pasifika Fashion Series ( 4th: here 3rd: here 2nd: here 1st: here).

Check out some of my favorite pieces from his past collections that are on trend for Spring & Summer’s bright and bold color palette:

[Pasifika Fashion Series] Fashion Forward Fibre Artist, Shona Tawhiao!

Fibre Artist & Fashion Designer, Shona Tawhiao

Shona Tawhiao is a fibre artist and designer trained in traditional Maori weaving techniques and methods.  Tawhiao designs and creates garments entirely made of native flax or Harakeke complete with matching accessories such as hats and shoes.  The key distinguishing factor between Tawhiao and other Pasifika Fashion Haute Couture designers is her strict use of native flax  to create her unique haute couture designs. Unlike other designers, Tawhiao mixes traditional Maori weaving skills with her eye for contemporary design. Tawhiao has exhibited extensively with her style of woven art, has produced TV sets for the Maori Television Service worked in art and costume departments for films ‘Maori Merchant of Venice’ and ‘River Queen’ among others. She has been producing award winning woven garments where she has developed techniques and designs that are unique to her aspirations of Maori culture and other indigenous nations.
Tawhiao’s Haute Couture collection ‘Te Whiri’ under her label ‘TAWHIAO’is inspired by her fascination with Japan’s Harajuku girls and is influence by her interest in Maori, Japanese and Roman warriors.

“My collection is inspired by traditional warrior wear, Samurai, Roman, the Masai, and Maori of course. It’s totally military warrior woman meets marching girl. —Shona Tawhiao

She goes on further to state that, “Everything Japanese is inspirational to me. How an indigenous culture creates a subculture, I think is really cool. Maori don’t have that yet.”
Her pieces are definitely in a class of their own.  Her pure usage of flax is truly fashion forward and innovative in creating such great peplum shapes, distinct clean lines, and movement.  Tawhiao’s pieces flow with grace and dignity in a very similar fashion to the warriors that she draws so much inspiration.
*Photo Credit: Shona Tawhiao
Check out my favorite pieces from Shona’s collections:

[Pasifika Fashion Series] Discover Fiji’s Hidden Gem!

Fijian Fashion Designer, Adi Koila Ganilau (center) with models wearing pieces from her Summer Collection ’11

Adi Koila Ganilau draws all of her inspiration from her home island, Fiji. With its vast contrasts of blues in the surrounding ocean, lush greens in the hills, and vibrant hues in its sandy beaches and coral reefs. It is no wonder that such a tropical landscape could make an impression in Koila’s custom print designs, which live up to traditional Fijian art style that is often large and bold in nature. You can also see influences from many countries in Koila’s designs, but her most influential inspiration is her grandmother, Adi Lady Litia Cakobau Lalabalavu Mara. “She”, Koila says speaking of her grandmother, “was head and shoulders above the rest”, and was truly the noblest of her time.

With such a poised and graceful example to direct her vision, Koila centres her womenswear line, Marama Dina, to the very woman who represents all that her grandmother embodied – class and style. Marama Dinaliterally translates to mean “true lady” or “real woman” and Koila proudly states that her clothing is for every woman of every size, shape, color, and ethnicity and for every occasion. With dresses, jumpsuits, tops and more and many pieces easily transitioning from day to night. Versatile Transition pieces is the key for Marama Dina.

Momo (which means “uncle”) is Koila’s menswear line, Rattoo (a play on the word “ratu” which refers to men of dignified stature) is her men’s streetwear line that caters to the younger hipster male market and Marama Lailai is her junior girls line. Four clothing lines may seem over-zealous, but Koila is quite the over-achiever and will not limit herself or her designs to one market.

All of Koila’s prints are custom drawn by herself as she has been drawing and painting since childhood and every print design is hand-printed onto various fabrics by her team. Her prints live up to the traditional Fijian art style that is often large and bold in nature. Every item of clothing in all of Koila’s lines are exclusively produced in Fiji in order to maintain the authenticity of their origin as well as ensure that each item of clothing can stand alone as a keepsake or piece of Fiji that every customer can obtain.
*Photo Credit: Adi Koila Ganilau
Check out some of my favorite pieces from her Summer 2011 Collection:

And this is my favorite piece hands down from Koila’s Summer ’11 collection.  The monochromatic palette, coupled with the amazing Fijian artwork and the added train just make such an emotional impact.  This is her defining piece in my opinion and I will be adding this to my closet!

[Pasifika Fashion] Innovative Pasifika Milliner, Lopeti Etu!

Fashion Designer & Milliner, Lopeti Etu

The signature touch to any ensemble is the accessory.  This vital piece can either reward you with rave reviews & approval or forever categorize you as a fashion victim (don’t believe me, just ask Kristen Wiig).  Many of us have a key accessory that we deem as our “go-to” to tell our fashion story.  For many, that final added piece to complete the look is a hat. For this next installment of my series highlighting innovative and ground breaking Pasifika fashion talent, I introduce to you, Lopeti Etu.
Lopeti Etu is an innovative fashion designer and milliner based in New York City who draws inspiration from the world around him. Etu hand blocks all his hats, and creates one of a kind pieces using local suppliers and craftspeople.

After having worked in the fashion industry for many years, Etu took a risk and started his own millinery label in 2010 with business partner, David Balluff. They aspire to bring daring and verve back into the New York millinery world.

Lopeti Etu first became introduced to hats and hatmaking when his grandfather made him a straw hat in his native Tonga for a school dance. Etu recalls that while most children were wearing store-bought hats, his grandfather’s hand-woven creation made him happy. 

His millinery designs have appeared on the cover of French Vogue, and in editorial shoots for Elle, Bazaar, O, Glamour and Self. Several of Etu’s hats also made an appearance on the first season of Bravo’s Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, worn by contestant Nao Bustamante.
*Photo Credit: King Redman 
Check out some of my favorite pieces from Etu’s Spring 2011 collection: