Rarotongan designer scores ultimate accolade

Rarotongan designer scores ultimate accolade
The royal seal of approval for a Pacific Island designer means taking calls from some of the world's fashion capitals.

Fashion bloggers and commentators are singing the praises of a little-known Cook Islands designer after her generous gift to visiting royals was splashed across the British tabloids and television.

Ellena Tavioni and her label TAV, based in Rarotonga, yesterday made fashion history for the Pacific state by becoming a Royal designer-of-choice, if only for a day.

As the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge continued with their tour of the Solomon Islands they were clad in her beautiful handcrafted designs.

Tavioni’s string of success began with the recent Pacific Island Forum in Rarotonga, where she designed the casual shirts for visiting leaders and dignitaries.

“During the forum an organiser for the Royal visit to the Solomon Islands ordered two little girls dresses and informed me they were to be worn while presenting flowers to Kate and Prince William,” says Tavioni.

 “I decided not to charge as a contribution to the royal visit from the Cook Islands.  Then, I felt that I should offer something for the royal couple. The organiser, Lady Saunders, insisted I wrote a note and I automatically offered the gift on behalf of the Cook Islands as a commemoration of their first visit to the Pacific.”

 The result – the royal couple donning dress and shirt for their official visit to the Governor General’s home and State Dinner in the capital, Honiara.

 A royal aide confirmed the Duchess of Cambridge only found Tavioni’s gift less than an hour before the banquet, but loved its handcrafted pink designs so much she opted to wear it.

 “I was just overwhelmed. This is such an honour,” says Tavioni.

 Kate has become a fashion trailblazer and has a ripple effect on fashion sales whenever she graces the magazine and newspaper pages in their designer pieces.

 So the Duchesses decision could prove a pivotal one for TAV’s international image, with the designer’s stores in Rarotonga, Auckland and Honolulu already taking orders for similar dresses.

 Tavioni founded the company in 1987 specialising in resort wear.

 Her motifs are inspired by the Pacific, sea life, flora and fauna resulting in hand blocked, hand painted and dip dye designs with paints which she mixes herself.

 The TAV label is manufactured in Rarotonga, supporting the Cook Islands industry by using only local talent, and exports throughout the Pacific – and hopefully soon even further afield. 

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).