Wednesday, 19 September 2012 8:01 AM

Cook Island Outfits Make History

Cook Islands local designer Ellena Tavioni and her label TAV, made fashion history for the Pacific, as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wore her beautiful handcrafted designs to the Island feast by the Solomon Islands Governor General.

Following her great success during the recent Pacific Forum held in Rarotonga, when Ellena outfitted all the supporters and provided shirts for the leaders attending the event, she was commissioned by the Solomon Islands organisers to make dresses for the two children presenting flowers to the royal couple.

"Mrs. Saunders, based in the Solomons who was part of the organising team for the royal visit, came into our Tav store to purchase dresses and shirts for both her and her husband during the Forum. She then ordered two little girls dresses and informed me they were to be worn while presenting flowers to Kate and Prince William.

When she came to pick up the dresses 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. (You know the usual Polynesian and Pacific culture of gifting and giving.) Mrs. 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 and that we all looked forward to their visit to the Cook Islands one day."

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. Ellena's response? "I was just overwhelmed. This is such an honour and I wanted them to be happy with what they had been given. Pink and blue were an obvious colour choice. I knew William would look great in blue. And of course pink for Kate was a natural. They both looked wonderful."

When asked by TVNZ's Pacific Correspondent Barbara Dreaver what her reaction was to receiving the TAV outfits- the Duchess of Cambridge - a fashion icon to many - replied that she thought they were "really lovely". And as we know when Kate wears a dress, it flies out the retail doors. No doubt there will be many rushing to purchase a similar TAV dress of their own.

Ellena's company TAV was established in 1987 specialising in resort wear. She uses original traditional motifs from the Pacific, sea life, flora and fauna in hand blocked; hand painted and dip dye designs with paints which she mixes herself. Printing is labour intensive relying on natural sunlight for drying prior to heat setting. Each garment is unique.

The TAV label is manufactured in Rarotonga supporting the Cook Islands industry by using only local talent and is exported throughout the Pacific. Ellena herself is married with four children and works tirelessly to support the Cook Islands community. She has been identified as one of the pioneers of Pacific Branding and won many business awards in the Pacific including the coveted "Cook Islands Woman of the Year" award.

Already images of Kate in her TAV dress are circulating the fashion blogs and websites and are sure to shine the spotlight on TAV and the Cook Islands.

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