Failepou Peni (otherwise known as Fai) is the director and founder of Pacific International Runway (PIR) – one of the most prominent Pacific/multicultural fashion companies. They source out established and emerging fashion designers from the Pacific Region to give them exposure to the mainstream fashion industry. They also teach basic fashion design in PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Australia and provides mentorship in the fashion industry. They always look for new faces within the modelling sector; collaborating with various groups, especially with the young generation to allow them to experience and work under various designers or anyone in the fashion industry.
Besides Pacific International Runway, Failepou is also the lead designer and stylist for the clothing brand “Lepou” as well as the director and licensee of Pacific Int RealEstate Pty Ltd – a company that provides mentorship by guiding people in their property investment journey. Her overall goal is to be the best she can ever be by sharing the gifts she has been blessed with. Her accomplishments include helping the young and mature know and understand mainstream fashion as well as guiding them to produce their first collection via the PIR platform. As the PIR founder, she has enabled herself plus 6 designers to represent their own culture (Samoa, Tonga, NZ, Cook Island, Solomon Island, and Australia) in Hollywood – their garments were showcased during the red carpet premiere for Disney’s Moana held in Hollywood, Los Angeles. She was a part of the team that took PNG textile printing to a new level by utilising their artistic skills and enabling them to design their own cultural prints on fabric, whether it be hand-printed or sublimation prints, transforming their skills into a sustainable income. She has also been helping many families buy their first homes, dating right back to 16 years ago, and now, she’s helping them build their portfolio in property investment by teaching them to become more financially secure.
Outside of work, she considers herself as just an ordinary person. She’s a devout Christian who loves Jesus with all of her heart – she considers Jesus as the core of her life. She also loves hanging out with her husband and kids, along with her extended family and friends. She believes that having a balanced life is important and she’s a firm believer in treating others as you would want to be treated. She doesn’t feel the need to look at what others are doing; she just focuses on what she can do because she knows her worth so she has no fear.
Sassy & Co magazine recently caught up with Failepou to discuss her journey in the fashion industry and here’s what went down:
How did you get into the fashion industry?
I started at the age of 11, helping my mother, Ane Fasavalu Saipaia, when she was a sewing teacher in New Zealand, Samoa, and Australia. Watching and admiring what she did made me want to get into the fashion industry.
What do you like most about being a designer?
Creating nothing into something, also creating garments where the wearer gets to wear the dress not the other way around, and seeing your clients get the wow factor not just the smile.
The downside to being a fashion designer?
For me, every designer is different. I personally enjoy and embrace the fashion industry with each challenge to transform difficulty into positivity. As a creator, you know your capabilities, your strength, and weaknesses. If you’re working on your weakness, then it becomes no longer a weakness because, without your weakness, you will not know your strengths. For me, a downside always becomes the upside.
What has been the most memorable experience of being in the fashion industry so far?
The very first fashion show that I directed was held at Campsie in the 1990s, that was when my husband had to drive all the way to Campsie from Fairfield to pick up my finale garment which was still being completed by my mother to be given to the model at the runway, it was a showstopper. it’s the most memorable experience that I will always remember for it was the last time that I would work together with my mother in creating this last piece and having a husband who journeyed with me then and now in this fashion industry. I have many memorable moments and experiences with a list of clients but this memory will always top them all.
Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?
The most interesting people that I have met would have to be the people of Papua New Guinea. The people of PNG are very creative, artistic and they have the willingness to learn and embrace knowledge about the fashion industry. I was blessed to be a part of taking this project of teaching the people of PNG.
What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while in the fashion industry. This can be about the industry or about yourself.
As a designer of fashion, you are the creator, as a creator, there are no limits. Understand your clients’ forecasts and trends. Knowledge is key to a successful path.
Is your family supportive of you being a fashion designer?
Yes, my immediate family grew up with fabric in their faces (laughs).
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?
The simple answer is to have the two greatest supporters in my life; having my mother, Ane Fasavalu Saipaia, and my sister Maisagamai Taoai with me today.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Having Jesus Christ as my core.
What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.
Not only am I a fashion designer, but I am also a real estate licensee. My future plan is to encourage and empower anyone whatever age, culture, or profession. My advice for anyone is to continue to strive until you get what you want. if you fall, get back up again and keep going until it’s yours. You alone have the choice to decide your future. My plans will always be to live my life to its fullest, to who I was created to be.