Tagata Pasifika The Pacific voice on New Zealand television since 1987

Mother and daughter duo team up for Pasifika accessories and tapa brand

Evelina & Co co-owners: Ninda Soesa (left) with mother Malaesaili Fagafua Soesa (right). Photo: Supplied
Evelina & Co co-owners: Ninda Soesa (left) with mother Malaesaili Fagafua Soesa (right). Photo: Supplied
Ann-Tauilo Motuga | Videographer | Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ on Air

Malaesaili Fagafua Soesa and her daughter Ninda Soesa are the beautiful faces behind Evelina & Co, a Pasifika sei, accessories and tapa business based in Melbourne. The Samoan duo named the brand in honour of their late mother and grandmother Evelina.

“She was rarely ever seen without her sei and accessories,” Ninda says.

“She was the best example of love, kindness and being of service to others. [She] taught us the value and importance of maintaining and sustaining our measina.”

Evelina & Co specialises in island seis, island ula (necklace), floral hair clips and siapo, or tapa cloths. They’re measina that have shaped Malaesaili and Ninda’s own identities as Pasifika women.

“Growing up in Samoa, [Mum’s] very first introduction into being able to express herself was by wearing a pua or aute from [Grandma] Evelina’s garden,” Ninda says.

“It may seem like such a small thing, but we know a lot of young girls can relate to that.”

The duo work with different suppliers of tapa cloths from the islands, providing tapa makers with sustainable employment. The designs are carefully arranged and liaised between both parties, and suppliers are sometimes given total creative control.

Evelina & Co's latest sold out Tapa collection. Photo: Facebook
Evelina & Co’s latest sold-out tapa collection. Photo: Facebook

“Our main aim is to appeal to the younger generation who may not be familiar with tapa or have access to tapa in their homes, so all designs are a contemporary take on traditional patterns/motifs,” says Ninda.

“We’re delighted that our suppliers also share in our views that culture is fluid rather than static, and that is reflected in the modern designs.”

Evelina & Co launched during Covid and, despite the pandemic, has blossomed over time. Their recent tapa collection sold out in under 24 hours, and there are now plans underway for a physical store in Samoa. With business backgrounds under their belt, the duo has managed to create a loyal and diverse customer base.

“It’s been a really challenging time for our people with borders being closed, so being able to help them feel a little bit closer to home is really rewarding,” says Ninda.

She adds that working alongside her mother has also been a “rewarding experience”. Their age gap has allowed them to understand both generations and acknowledge each other’s creative input.

“On a creative level, we don’t always align, which as most people can imagine causes lots of challenges during our work meetings,” jokes Ninda.

“At the end of the day, there is always respect and acknowledgement of each other’s ideas and skills. This has only made our relationship as business partners and family members stronger.”

Keep up to date with Evelina & Co’s next collections through their website and social media.

 

You Might Be Interested In