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Cook Is. designer meets haute couture in Caribbean

Press release: Cook Island designer meets haute couture in the Caribbean

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sunday October 22, 2006: The best thing that happened to Marion Howard while she was at the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) Festival was completely unexpected.

The up-and-coming Cook Islands designer received an invitation to attend an exclusive evening fashion show by top Italian designer Lorenzo Riva - and was invited to choose which five of the show’s professional models she wanted to use herself.

The Italian’s show earlier this week was a jaw-dropping inspiration, says Marion, 22. “It was like being at the Oscars. Lorenzo Riva is in a class of his own – the garments were top-of-the-line haute couture (high fashion). I was inspired because that’s where I want to go.”

However, last night, Marion was firmly in the Pacific, showing a collection of out-of-the-ordinary pareos and dresses by her aunt Elena Tavioni, another of her inspirations.

Marion, who last year graduated with a degree in fashion design from Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand’s South Island, was unable to bring any of her own garments as her invitation to the festival came too late for them to be shipped from storage in New Zealand.

However, showing her aunt’s work was a kind of homage, says Marion. It was her grandmother, a skilled sewer, and other creative family members like Elena who influenced her passion for design. Marion has also worked with her aunt.

The open-air fashion show in the courtyard of a 16th century stone building also included designers from the Caribbean and Africa, and was packed with people.

They greeted with enthusiasm a dizzying array of garments, ranging from outfits one could wear on a daily basis … to walking pieces of art you would never see off a catwalk.

* The First ACP Festival ended last night with a spectacular fireworks display above the historic Spanish-style buildings of Santo Domingo’s Plaza Espana. The Pacific delegates head home today – but not without leaving something of themselves behind. Awarding-winning Fijian scrap-metal artist Ben Fong, who exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, donated his sculpture of a lagoon-going outrigger canoe, a camakau, to the institution. “I wanted to bring this over to show a part of Fiji,” he said. “Other Pacific nations have canoes but in a slightly different form. I wanted to show our mode of transport in the past.”

A kava bowl was gifted to festival organisers by the Seven Stars Band – Melvin Solomona, his brother Hemi, Faamanatu Solomona, Ruta Masinalupe, Andante Moors, Polani Pita and Eric Poe.

The other members of the festival delegation were: Marion Howard, Cook Islands fashion designer; Fijian contemporary dance group Rako, whose members are Letila Mitchell, Asahel Naivolasiga, Maryann Ma’afu, Serafimi Naulumatua and Sailasa Tora; Papua New Guinea filmmaker Martin Maden, who lives in Germany; and officials Jacob Simet, director of PNG’s National Cultural Commission, and Mose Fulu, assistant chief executive of Samoa’s Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture.

Notes to media:

• The 14 Pacific members of the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) Group of States are: the Cook Islands; Fiji; Kiribati; the Republic of the Marshall Islands; the Federated States of Micronesia; Nauru; Niue; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Solomon Islands; Timor Leste; Tonga; Tuvalu; and Vanuatu.

• For more information on the First ACP (African, Caribbean, Pacific Group of States) Festival, which started on October 14 and ran until yesterday, October 21, see

• About the Dominican Republic: The tropical Dominican Republic is second-largest country of the Caribbean, and shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. The population of some 8.5m people comprises descendents of the indigenous Taino, African slaves, and Spaniards. The common language is Spanish and the capital Santo Domingo.


© Scoop Media

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