In an fashion industry that is booming with Pacific talent, it’s difficult to stand out as a designer. But for Iki Haangana, his greatest challenge is as clear to him as his purpose – he believes his attitude has been his biggest weakness – and biggest strength. His designs are a testament to his attitude and most of all – his hard work and talent. He shares his story in the lead up to his fashion show in the hope of raising awareness of his new business and to encourage others to “create the work you want to do, now!”
Tell Tell us a bit about yourself, the work that you do, and how you came to follow that career path?
Put simply, my name is Iki and I make clothes. I’m really inspired by the creativity that it takes for people to make their ideas come to life, and the way that I’ve chosen to present mine is through fashion and clothes.
For a better introduction, my name is Iki Haangana and I’m an Aussie-born Tongan fashion designer and founder of Island TKM.
Island TKM is a fashion project where I express my views, ideas and influences from my Pacific island background and infuse them with modern trends. Although I’d very much like to stay on the design, ideas and inspiration side of things, I can’t help but love the physical hands-on creating and sewing side of it all as well. I have to say that this career I’m following is a path that was set in stone for me 2 generations before me. My mother is a machinist as was my grandmother, and I couldn’t have been happier about it.
What have been the biggest challenges in your line of work?
My biggest challenge in my line of work has nothing to do with the industry and all to do with me. Overcoming my self-doubt in order to truly believe in my work and stand proudly behind it is the biggest challenge. I also think that this laid-back nature of Pacific islanders in general is also something I struggle with a lot, but also comes in handy when I’ve pushed myself too hard and I have to remove myself from my work in order to recharge. Now that I’m turning things around, paradigms are beginning to shift and I’ve done more these past couple of months than I have in the several years beforehand.
What motivates you to push forward with all that you do?
I find motivation in a lot of things, the happiness of my grandmother, the proud stance of my mother as she tells people what I’m up to, reminding myself of my goals also motivates me to push forward.
The amazing people I keep meeting who are positive and generous by nature helps a lot and just the whole world of creativity, whether it be in fashion, music, design or art. Creativity not only motivates me, it inspires me, and inspiration that comes from within pushes me a lot further.
One thing that inspired me on a massive scale was the Pacific Runway Fashion Show in October 2015 which took place at the prestigious fashion quarters of Sydney, Carriageworks. Thirteen designers from around the Pacific showcased their amazing collections. It inspired me so much that I decided on an individual fashion show launch for Island TKM coming up on 12 December 2015, where I’m going to show island fashion through my modern-day, k-pop cultured lens.
What advice do you have for young Pacific people who might be thinking of doing the same thing?
I share this all the time – create the work that you want to do, now!
I sat back and was stagnant for several years in that headspace of waiting for certain things to happen before I gathered the gumption to do something about what I wanted, but then it just became a cycle of waiting for certain things and waiting for particular events and waiting for the right people.
By the time those things appear, you go to put motion to your ideas and 10 other people have already done it. So you just need to keep doing or creating something, just keep moving and do everything now.
Also the more mistakes you make now, the better you’ll know for the future. It’s sort of like driving, you don’t just jump in a car and out of nowhere you’re the best driver. It comes to you bit by bit and you make mistakes and nudges but you keep driving day after day and you loosen from the fear and the next thing you know, you’re driving. I would strongly urge young Pacific people to stop fighting for their limitations and just start producing and to start producing now.
A huge vinaka to Iki for sharing his work and his story with us. If you’d like to purchase tickets to his show, or find out more about Island TKM, head to their Facebook page or search @theislandtkm on Instagram.