Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Fashion boutique MENA celebrates 20 years of Pasifika Fashion

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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Soana Aholelei | Reporter / Director

MENA’s intentional style celebrates Pasifika.

A family affair mixed with high fashion was ablaze with colour for Samoan boutique clothing brand MENA celebrating 20 years of Pasifika fashion and style with a runway show in Auckland last month.

Behind the label are the four Loheni sisters, Agnes, Charlene, Gina and Jackie.

 In a sold-out show, the models were serenaded on the catwalk while strutting MENA’s new spring collection along with some old favourite pieces.

Jackie says, “In this collection we’ve got about 45 pieces and we will also be showcasing some of our vintage from over the last 20 years.” 

“That’s our point of difference and we are really pleased that women from around the world Pasifika women from around the world have found us and want to buy our label.” Says the eldest of the family, Agnes

The show also paid tribute to the one who inspired the label back in Samoa, their mother Mena Loheni.

Self-taught, growing up in Samoa, Mena always had a passion for sewing, some say it was a gift.

“When I was quite young, back in the village, I used to want to make things, I used to cut up sheets and make skirts.” 

When the Loheni family were living in Samoa 20 Years ago, they found there was a demand for Mena’s skills.

Mena recalls when she first sewed from home as a seamstress; “When we moved to Samoa, it was something I had to do just to earn some money, but then it started to get sort of out of hand.  It was funny when, by word of mouth goes out very quick in Samoa.

That’s why we thought we’ll open the shop and let the people go to the shop instead of coming to the house, that’s how it all started.”

20 Years on, the Mena sisters have taken on many roles to keep the brand going.

“It’s a real collaborative, it’s really fun we have a lot of laughs.  It’s really an effort from all four of us, mum has actually a lot of import as well.

So, I have the boring job I’m the book keeper and I look after the finances but on the flip side of that I actually do a lot of the graphics so these are all our exclusive designs so I also get to be creative with our prints and colours so they are my two main roles.” Says the youngest of the sisters Charlene

“My main role is looking after the retail store which includes this shop here and the online store as well.” Says Gina

“I look after production and the manufacturing. I go out and meet the most of them are women that work from home.” Smiles Jackie

But over 20 years there’s been some hard times in the business.

Charlene recalls;When we started, we really were only serving our community in Samoa and I think we wanted to take that on a bigger global scale. So, I think we learnt in the end that we did have to change the way that we were going to work and produce our products, but were always forward thinking and we really wanted to be contemporary and for us, this was a way to bring our traditional island fashion into currant day.’

Also celebrating achievements and milestones, with graduations, weddings and children, the Mena family have had more great times to boot.

“There’s been so many highlights, I guess for us just working as a family, it’s been a privilege and an honour but, also having our label recognisee. Also, to our customers, because we have customers that have been with us from the beginning up until now.” Says Jackie

Moving forward, the family is looking at expanding the business.

“We’ve diversified into other areas along with the clothing we want to look at MENA as a lifestyle brand.  In terms of some other products whether it be home and living accessories.” Says Agnes

Mena and her daughters are forever grateful for those who have been loyal friends and family.

“20 years is a long time for a business to survive, and we thank our customers because without them MENA wouldn’t survive so were grateful for the people that buy MENA.”

An emotional mother of four, Mena also admits her ulterior motive was always to have the family together.

“If there is anything that I get out of the business is keeping my family together, I’m happy and also grateful for them for coming on board and carry on something that I love doing.”

For this fashion brand, family, faith and values is everything.

“I love my sisters we all have we all bring our own strengths and we know our weaknesses so we do play on our strengths and I think that’s what makes it.” Says Jackie

Agnes agrees; “Our values have been so that we cherish our Samoan heritage, that part of our culture that is around service, and excellence, and faith and family, that’s still a Constance and it’s actually been the strength to why we are still her 20 years later.”

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