Who is Cecilia Keil?

Cecilia Keil, currently in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea is one of the few designers in the Pacific to have gained international exposure.

Like many designers, it took Keil a long time for the breakthrough.

Her very first engagement as a designer was creating the wardrobe for Miss Samoa in 1996.

And something which started off as a hobby has brought her far from her kitchen table, onto local and regional runways and eventually the big jump to the red carpets of Hollywood.

Keil’s work was recognised during the Pacific Runway. She was later on contacted by an agency, JT management, to dress Opetaia Foa’i - the creator, composer and front-man of Te Vaka – the band that contributed to the soundtrack of 2016 animated film Moana, for the movie’s premier.

“To go all the way to Hollywood is every designers’ dream and coming from the pacific, that was indeed a dream come true and a milestone for me,” she said.

The Auckland-based Samoan designer says there are challenges but the passion for her hobby has kept her going this far.

Since establishing her own company, Cecilia’s Fashion House, Keil is constantly looking back to her tradition and culture for inspiration.

Some of her work, like other Samoan’s in the business, uses elei – traditional tattoos, which are hand printed onto fabric.

“To me, it has more meaning when it’s done with hand, it’s your culture, embrace it.”

Her wish is for governments to provide a support system for overseas exposure of local designs by local designers.

Gloria Bauai