The Wearing Fiji 2022 show will debut 5 of its student designers labels. These students were judged last year as part of their mentorship program.
Sara Du was won the 2021 WFJ Student Designer of the year award, she is also one of only 2 of our student designers who have been in the program for 3 years. Sara has completed this year of mentorship virtually with mentor designers.
She is currently studying medicine in Sydney Australia
What is the inspiration behind your debut collection?
The collection is inspired by the legend of 'Burotukula' (a mystery island in Fiji. The legend talks about a man discovering an island where he is greeted with beautiful women and is surrounded by flowers. When approached by the most beautiful women on the island he was told not to sleep as they will disappear and that’s exactly what happened when he woke up from his nap. He and the rest of the village tried looking for the island but all that remained was flowers on their beach and a shadow of the island.
The collection “A Floral Dream” showcases exactly this legend with the first few pieces being black and beige inspired by masi prints and with each progressing piece, the collection incorporates floral prints that slowly diminish after our sunset inspired styles to mimic the legend.
As an artist, I love being able to tell a story with only visuals so this was a very exciting theme to work on. In addition to the village I’ve incorporated elements symbolizing the culture of Fijian Women with silhouettes inspired by sulu draping, masi prints, woven texture, and meke costumes.
What does 'DUENDE' mean?
The brand name “DUENDE” (pronounced dwen-day) is a Spanish word that translates to the power of art to deeply move a person which fits perfectly with my values. When also realising the brand name had my surname, I decided it was perfect. As an artist I’ve always drawn inspiration from nature hence I aim to incorporate my art in the form of prints while also experimenting with different styles and textures.
Who is do you see wearing DUENDE?
DUENDE is perfect for women that are fun and spirited while wanting to feel confident and comfortable. Our designs play with unique bold prints that are showcased in minimal and feminine silhouettes.
Each design is made with the female figure in mind and the aim to make each piece feel yours. We also prioritise ethical aspects of the fashion industry. To do this most of our garments will be on a pre-order basis to eliminate waste and your garment is handmade by local tailors in Fiji to support local craftsmanship. So for customers that love to shop consciously, you’re not only allowing us to share our passion but you’re supporting the whole community.
Sara Du with her mum and sister at the GPH after winner her WFJ Student Designer of the year award
How has the Wearing Fiji mentorship program helped develop your brand?
Being part of Wearing Fiji for three years, I’ve definitely seen personal growth. When first starting, I wasn’t very educated about the fashion industry and all I knew was how to sketch out a design I envisioned.
The program taught me everything that contributed to bringing that sketch to life, which for an artist is truly a magical experience. We were out through a weekly training session where different mentors taught us their speciality which ranged from pattern making to social media to business aspects.
While teaching is the foundation of launching a brand, we were given the amazing opportunity to design 3 pieces in the 2021 show. This show really challenged our creativity and put us out of our comfort zone. It also helped me create my brand identity as when we were given boundaries such as fabric and 3 pieces, it came down to narrowing down a list full of ideas.
Sara's 2021 collection
I realised that personally I gravitate towards picking flowy skirts, dresses, crop tops and cut outs. This then progressed into the final step of our launch which will be happening at the 2022 show. Not only is the project giving us exposure but also allowing us to stock up at
their boutique for three months which is so helpful to upcoming designers myself.
As a student, I have a busy lifestyle and not as much capital to stock up at stores so being able to sell to a loyal customer base for three months rent free will really act as the catalyst in our fashion careers.
You've now been mentored by Samson Lee for 3 years, what have you learnt?
I was really lucky to be mentored by Samson as he has managed to establish his brand not only locally but internationally. Throughout my mentorship program, I was able to have my sessions at his store where I could actually see behind the scenes how he ran his business while also being given the opportunity to help out.
Samson always made sure I had practical experience and let me help out with design sketches, experience screen printing, and even photoshoots and social media marketing. I’ve always been a visual learner so being hands on really helped me gain more experience.
Samson Lee and Sara Du at the WFJ Boutique
He would also make sure I’m always organised and would point out little things that one would normally overlook such as making sure my pieces were perfectly ironed and all loose threads to be cut. He made sure I knew how important the display was to catch a customer's attention and most importantly he taught me the value of my designs.
Through him I understood the concept of running a business and not to let anyone undervalue my art. The advice that stuck to me most was when he told me how he started his brand and said “Some people may criticise or question your designs or pricing especially when you’re a new designer but your target market will always understand the value of your art”.
I would describe my personal style to be very feminine and minimal, and it always comes down to my mood on the day. The colours and silhouettes I wear on the day are always customised to making me feel the most confident. My style is heavily influenced by Pinterest and TikTok where some of my favourite influencers are : Hailey Bieber, Hannah Harnell, Amelie Tremblay and Jacquei Alexander. When looking at some of the classic fashion icons I would definitely pick Kate Moss, Gwenyth Paltrow, and Aubrey Hepburn.