We all have our ways of communicating our ideas, our wants, desires, inspirations, etc. with the world and with Designer and Model Tia Semi-she is no different. Tia does not let her disability prevent her from communicating her perspective on the world through her designer line as well as her work as a runway model.
Tia’s ambition is incredibly inspiring as she has overcome bullying in school due to her disabilities and she advocates for support of people with disabilities representation in an industry famous for exclusivity.
**The answers below are answered by Tia with assistance from her mother, Gina Semi and transcribed by her business assistant, Rachel.**
1. Please provide your name, your ancestry and where were you born and raised?
My name is Tia Semi. I was born in Perth, Western, Australia, but my ancestry is Samoan. My grandparents are Samoan, and my dad is a New Zealand-born Samoan. I’m very proud of my Polynesian ancestry, and incorporate it into my design.
2. What were your first memories of fashion? When was it that you knew you wanted to design clothes?
As a kid, I wasn’t particularly interested in clothes, but I knew I wanted to be onstage from the beginning. My journey into fashion began after I showed an interest in designing my own pillows. I also started participating in photo shoots, encouraged my family and friends. Combining these two was ideal! I first began by designing my handprinted Samoan lava-lavas (sarongs), and sewing them with assistance, and my interest grew from there.
3. What has your journey as a designer been like? What have you learned so far through your journey as a designer?
I began as a model first, and am relatively new to designing. As a designer and a model, I have grown to love the runway. It has allowed me to meet new people, gain independence, confidence, and a passion. Painting my designs has given me a mode of self-expression, and my friends and family have noticed my language skills growing too.
Technically, my sewing skills and painting skills, as well as my ability to distinguish different materials, has improved greatly in my journey so far.
4. Were there and/ or are there any designers that inspire you?
I modeled as part of Eco Fashion Week, and met so many important people there. I was inspired to design by other Eco Fashion designers such as Leah Kelly, and was given opportunities thanks to Zuhan Kuvan-Mills, of Green Embassy. Zuhan has always believed in me, and I am so grateful!
In 2019, I was lucky enough to meet Afa Ah Loo, who I connected with on a personal level and consider a friend.
5. Who are your top three favorite designers and why?
As touched on before, I love Afa Ah Loo’s colourful designs which I first saw at Pacific Fusion Fashion Festival in New Zealand, and he is now a friend of mine.
At the same show, I also loved the designs by Leata Mailo-McCarthy, who also handprints Polynesian designs! Lastly, I modeled in RIFTs on the Reef 2019, and loved walking for Indigenous designer Raelea Connolly-Neal. I am very drawn to bright colours and prints.
6. What are some things you’d like to see change in the mainstream fashion scenes and even within the Pacific?
I have loved being a part of Pacific fashion shows, and have felt a welcoming presence which my family and I think is a blessing, as it allows me to feel a deeper connection to my culture. In general, I am passionate about fashion which is inclusive of people with disabilities.
7. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Look at what’s happened in 2! In future, I hope to live more independently, become financially independent, and take part in more runways! I’ve loved traveling and meeting other designers and models and would love to have more opportunities to do so.
8. Are you working on anything at this moment? If so, what are your current inspirations? If not, do you have an idea of where you are going as far as ideas?
I have lots of new projects on the go at the moment. I’m currently looking at collaborating with another Perth-based designer to create a swimwear collection. I have recently created new additions to my existing silk range- Malosiaga I Totonu- and have just launched a handprinted activewear range!
I will also be a part of Hawaii Fashion Week in October 2020!
9. Top three songs on your playlist
Yummy by Justin Bieber
Memories- Maroon 5
What’s a Man Gotta Do- Jonas Brothers
10. What do you want your legacy to be?
I hope I am known as a model and designer who never gives up, and inspires other people in the process!
11. What are some of your biggest fears?
I fear failing, and being seen as different to other models and designers because of my disabilities
12. Any advice for aspiring designers?
Always try! Never give up on your dreams, and push through all of the barriers you encounter.
13. Where is your Dream fashion venue and/ or fashion week?
It has always been my dream to model for Pacific Runway in Sydney, and more recently I’ve been talking about traveling to Fiji.