Tagata Pasifika

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since 1987

The Polynesian fashion designer championing men’s plus-size fashion

Samoan/Tongan fashion designer John Tanuvasa grew up to the sound of his mother’s sewing machine. Now, at 27 years old, he’s created clothing brand OHN for plus-sized men.

A new addition to the Auckland fashion scene, John wants to create clothing for the plus-size Pacific Island man.

“I was always the big kid, because I didn’t fit in anywhere,” John says.

“And on top of that, I couldn’t find clothes that matched my personality.”

John Tanuvasa as a youngster. Photo: Supplied
John Tanuvasa as a youngster. Photo: Supplied

John remembers a happy childhood, but it all changed when he hit his teens.

“It wasn’t until high school, I was like, ‘Oh, clothes are a thing that you can actually make,'” he says.

“Anyone can do it, and just exploring that avenue of really understanding how clothes are made, why they are made, who was it for.”

John Tanuvasa at graduation. Photo: Supplied
John at graduation. Photo: Supplied

Inspired, he did something about it. He went to AUT University to study textiles and fashion before working in various roles. Then he decided to create his own fashion brand.

“OHN is originally just John without a J, nothing too fancy… But the idea behind it, the psychology of the brand, is truly for me; it’s a love letter to say to big men to really accept themselves,” John says.

Last year he was one of 13 designers to showcase his creations at the Pacific Fusion Fashion Show.

OHN clothing
Photo: OHN clothing

“I want to challenge the norms and do something a bit riskier.” he says.

This was John’s creative outlet to encourage Pacific men to not be afraid of expressing themselves through fashion.

“I want to have the freedom to create whatever,” John says.

“In New Zealand, you kept being put in a box constantly. I don’t want to be put in a box.”

It’s a proud moment for John’s Mother, Melitasi Tanuvasa, who worked as a seamstress and is still sewing 40 years on.

Melitasi Tanuvasa
John’s mother, Melitasi Tanuvasa. Photo: Supplied

“I am very happy that he’s taken my job and made it his own. That is why I am happy, and the whole family can see that too,” Melitasi says.

OHN started with streetwear, and now John is on the path to releasing his third collection in a few months’ time without any limitations.

By John Pulu

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