Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television

since 1987

Niu Tide owners optimistic in the face of Covid-19

PHOTO: @niu_tide/Instagram

Across all sectors and industries, the consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak have been felt deeply. Many of our small business owners who have spent months and years building their entrepreneurial dreams have begun to assess how their efforts will be affected in the midst of this.

Mahu and Mark Anderson are two Pacific accessory designers who are preparing themselves for what will come. “I guess from a business point of view, we just have to put in the hard yards, get our stock levels up and keep an eye on the market while we are in isolation,” Mahu says.

“Once there is a little more stability in our lives, hopefully we are in the best possible position we can be to emerge strong.”

Of Tuvaluan, Kiribati, Fijian and Pākehā descent, Mahu and Mark are the talents behind popular Pacific label Niu Tide, a premium collection of Pacific-inspired fashion accessories and essential homeware. They were due to sell their wares at the Pasifika Festival this year, with Mark making the trip down to Aotearoa, from Australia, with three of their four children.

PHOTO: Niu Tide source materials from indigenous female artisan groups from the Pacific.

When the festival was subsequently cancelled, Mahu says the pair were saddened, but resolute. “We kind of had a suspicion Pasifika would get cancelled… When we heard the news, we were disappointed,” says Mahu.

“That feeling was quickly replaced with a combination of determination and desperation to try and find an alternative place to sell our products. Mark was definitely stressed [that] Friday morning.”

Luckily for them and many other displaced vendors, the Pacific Business Hub opened its doors, providing many Pasifika entrepreneurs a space to sell their stock. It proved to be a successful weekend for the Niu Tide team.

“The support was fantastic. We had a few cushion covers and a few earrings left, but everything else sold out… I think all the vendors pretty much sold out of stock.”

The pair were surprised to find shoppers who travelled from Wellington and Tauranga specifically to purchase their coveted Niu Tide creations. “When we hear stories like that it just puts the biggest smiles on our faces and fills our hearts with joy,” says Mahu.

“Also, having the lovely ladies from Mena come and tell [us] personally that they are big fans and follow our progress closely on social media blows our mind!”

PHOTO: Mark (far right) and the Niu Tide team were visited by the Mena ladies at the Pasifika Pop-up

And the admiration goes both ways. Mark and Mahu were inspired by Mena and other Pacific designers to start their business in 2017. Mahu says, “We both love Pacific Island fashion. We love the likes of Mena, TAV, Hupfeld Hoerder, Samson Lee and House of Mausio.

“I think we both decided to try and source products that would accompany these beautiful garments that were being produced by these amazing Pacific designers.”

The couple source materials from indigenous female artisan groups around the world. Mahu says, “We try to incorporate all the Pacific Islands we represent in our products. My husband and I both sketch designs of products and then present these designs to the talented weavers. They are definitely the real stars of the show.”

“We are both proud Tuvaluans, but we are also Pasefika proud. We have been fortunate to have lived in Suva and Auckland, two of the most multicultural cities in the Pacific. I guess our designs are based on not only our Tuvaluan heritage but also memories – good times with loved and cherished friends that help make us the people we are now.”

As the couple begin to prepare themselves and their business for the fallout of the Covid-19 outbreak, Mahu is adamant that the tides will turn eventually.

“Hey, if our ancestors managed to navigate the largest ocean on earth and do it with ease, we can get through this! We are survivors, it’s in our genes!”

by Alice Lolohea

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