Koau Eni, Tulou is a digital print collection that is inspired and motivated by my family's heritage in agriculture and the manufacturing and service industry. Therefore, this collection is both a reflection and response to being a descendant of my ancestors.
Koau Eni, Tulou was manifested through a series of watercolour paintings that were used to digitally create fabric prints. These prints were then wielded into a streetwear collection made up of classic workwear garments.
This practise celebrates and communicates the historical path that my ancestors traveled and how it inspired my textile design aesthetic for colour, clothing and creativity.
This textile collection, Koau Eni, Tulou explores the significance of storytelling by way of contemporary textiles in relation to watercolour painting, digital print and garment making. The techniques used focus on amalgamating traditional and urban design methods to communicate how people existed and navigated amongst one another at points in time. This practice touches on iconography, explores colour harmonies and the benefits that communities in the future will receive from these textural stories when they, like us, begin to look back.
For centuries, textiles, artwork and clothing have held the responsibility of telling historic tales about the way human beings existed together in different eras. In Tonga people use iconography in their tapa cloth designs to represent who and where they are from, you can determine where a tapa was made by the artwork it possesses. The artwork employed in the Koau Eni, Tulou textiles are inspired by Tongan tapa cloth designs and explore icons which represent an ancestor or their city of origin. More importantly, these drawings narrate the era that my ancestors lived in and their resistance to their surroundings.
The textile designs in the collection evolved from hand-painted motifs and designs. The painting colours palettes chosen reflect Puerto Rico and Tonga. Red and blue are colours of the Puerto Rican flag and red for the Tongan flag. These primary colours were expanded to include a complementary colour group with tints and shades; icy blue, navy, turquoise, orange, green and brown.
The design inspiration for the garment silhouettes draw references from modern workwear and the guayabera. The guayabera is a Cuban workwear shirt designed by a wife whose husband was working on a plantation; the design includes multiple pockets to enable him to carry more guavas between the plantation and truck. Puerto Rican plantation workers later adopted this shirt.
Koau Eni, Tulou initially was going to be a streetwear collection inspired by my ancestors, but as time went on and the project developed my connection to them changed. It became apparent that this was supposed to be a dedication and gift to them. To thank them for the years of never giving up so that one day one their descendants would be able to receive an education, for always providing in the ways they could. The decision to not add four pockets to the shirts in Koau Eni, Tulou came easy as my ancestors no longer need them.