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Samoan fashion designer weaves a tale of resilience

Alakihihifo Vailala

TK Taito of TKT Bridal and Couture shares his journey from being bedridden to showcasing his creations on the runway.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

A return to his first love of fashion has helped a Samoan designer recover mentally after a close call with death.

Taukoko (TK) Taito’s interest in fashion was sparked by his mum who was a seamstress.

“I started sewing at a young age because my mum would ask me to help her. I’m mum’s boy, wherever she goes, I go. My mum was like my best friend.”

TK Taito’s with his wife and son. Photo/ Supplied

However Taito's career went in a different direction until an almost fatal heart attack caused a rethink. He says after he had triple bypass surgery, he decided to pursue his passion for fashion full time.

“My son was in his mum’s tummy while it was all happening and he was born shortly after.

My wife and son would come to the hospital every day to be by my side and that’s why family is so important to me.

“God saw my heart and where I was at the time I got back into fashion because I didn’t want to just stay home, do nothing and just dwell on my illness.

“I took out the sewing machine, started sewing and then from there, one person will ask, are you available? And from there it was like Chinese whispers.”

TK Taito’s designs.

Shortly after pursuing fashion full time, Taito began designing bridal gowns, bridesmaids dresses and school ball gowns.

Seven of Taito’s ball gowns won best dressed across seven high schools in New Zealand.

“It made me feel like ok, I’m doing something right. I talk to my clients that come in just to break the ice. We talk about a dress’ function whether they’re going to be dancing or doing backflips because the last thing we need is a malfunction.”

Despite his extensive career in fashion, Taito says his biggest highlight was getting to design and make his wife’s wedding dress.

“Luckily she wasn’t fussy. Behind a good man is a good wife and without her support, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.”

Most recently, Taito has started his own business, TKT Bridal and Couture with the help of The Generator programme.

The programme aims to strengthen financial situations for individuals by helping to kickstart their business ventures through funding and mentorship, 36 per cent of participants are of Pacific descent.

The Generator will be holding a free expo and fashion show this Friday and Saturday at the Māngere Arts Centre which Taito will be participating in.

“I’m nervous but at the same time, it’s like when you get that opportunity, you grab it and you go for it because tomorrow is never promised.”

Watch the full interview with TK Taito on Pacific Days below.

Hero image: A model wearing one of Taukoko (TK) Taito’s dresses. Photo/ Supplied

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