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A move back home to Samoa in 2015 after her daughter Ariana had won the Miss Samoa Pageant that year, reignited Taupulemaituaaigalotu Viki Samuelu Taufao’s love of fashion.
Having raised a family whilst living in different parts of the Pacific due to her husband’s job, Taupule as she is known, now 61, knew it was time to come home. She launched her own fashion line ‘Arilei Couture’ which will celebrate its first anniversary in November this year.
Although Arilei Couture maybe new to the Samoa fashion scene, Taupule is not new to dressmaking.
“Growing up a Methodist Faifeau's daughter, we were taught first hand many life skills which also included the art of sewing from our mother,” she remembers fondly.
“We started off with the basics like pillow cases and table cloths in those days before more affordable options were made readily available and we would wear whatever mum would sew for us. As a result, I would definitely have to say my sense of fashion started with her as she was quite flamboyant and was considered vibrant and a bit too ‘out there’ sometimes especially for a faletua back then!”
Arilei Couture is already red hot on Samoan social media with a strong following of 5000 and counting earning them a nomination for the Samoa Business Network ‘People’s Choice’ Award. Helped by a sharp and clever marketing team, her daughters Ariana and Leilani whom the name ‘Arilei’ is named after, the brand is growing in popularity.
Part of that popularity is attributed to the brands affordable clothing for all Samoans, something Taupule strives to promote as one point of difference.
“One of our main goals for Arilei is to expand on providing a service with a difference for our people and to grow the market of quality products at affordable prices. We aim to cater to the everyday Samoan looking for a new outfit for their next social event like White Sunday or weddings without having to break the bank.”
Taupule’s aim of being able to provide employment for talented dressmakers is just as important. Especially while she is running her other business as a full-time manager of Imex Samoa Money Transfer.
“One thing that stood out to me is the potential of the Samoan people and the role we could play in providing opportunities to grow and showcase their talent. We like to emphasise on ‘teamwork’ as it is very much ‘give and take’ where all levels of supply are vital to the continual development of our business.”
And with that said, she adds that one of the reasons for Arilei’s rapid growth has been because her production team have had to play other roles in the business, sometimes stepping out of their comfort zones. But if anything, she believes this only adds valuable transferable skills to a normally complacent dressmaker.
“As a small business still learning and developing, we've really required everyone to kind of delve in all areas of the business and become a jack of all trades ‘per se.’ I am proud of that and thank God everyday for this new family he has given me.”
The hardworking businesswoman who credits her villages as Alafua, Fasito'o tai, Satapuala, Foailalo and Niusuatia says it’s never too late to chase your dreams.
“My word of advice to everyone is simply what I tell my kids: Have a go! E le mafaia e tagata lenei mea, a e mafaia mea uma e le Atua. With God, anything is possible.”
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