Their mother, an entrepreneurial seamstress who made clothes and sold them for extra cash, taught them to sew dresses, weave baskets and hula skirts, package soaps.
Throughout their teenage years they were crafty and creative, and then they grew up and life got in the way. They got full-time jobs. Two had kids. But in December, the Thompson twins, Tuaine and Nan, caught up with some old friends, and talk turned to ambition and passion – a conversation that prompted Tuaine, 27, to start thinking more seriously about channelling her creativity into dressmaking. She began sewing again, and soon she was offered an opportunity to showcase her garments at a fashion show fundraiser.
People liked her designs, and they started asking questions. Tuaine and her sister felt inspired to start a brand. They called it Heihere – the name of Tuaine’s daughter, who motivates her mother to continue sewing as a means to feed her family. Heihere means Crown of Love – an apt description of a business founded on support and encouragement from family and friends.
“My friends were always telling me to do something but I never did,” Tuaine says now. “Crown of love is about them supporting me anyway.”
Nan created a Facebook page and asked friends to model and photograph Heihere clothes. The pictures she posted online drew hundreds of “likes” and comments from Rarotonga and overseas, and orders piled up. Girls and women in New Zealand and Australia wanted to know how they could purchase Heihere clothes.
People like Heihere because the clothes are affordable and the design is different, creative. It’s island chic – edgy, classy, a fusion of island style and urban. Tuaine and Nan use pareu prints, bright colours, and florals, but their influences are also bohemian – lace, crochet, off-the-shoulder cuts, crop tops, maxi skirts, ombre shading. They keep up with trends via their fashionable friends who live here and and those who live overseas and bring the latest fashions back to Rarotonga. They also check Pinterest, a website that allows users to scroll through photos and compile their own digital corkboard.
“It’s fun, actually,” Nan says. “We’re always thinking, what are we gonna do next?”
The twins have been surprised, maybe even a bit overwhelmed, by the marketing potential of social media. Just this weekend the Thompson girls celebrated reaching 1000+ “likes” on their Facebook page, with some girlfriends and bubbly. They reflected on how fast it’s all happening, and how excited they are to watch the brand grow.
It’s a lot to take in. Both twins work full-time, so they make clothes on weekends.
They try to fill orders within about a week. Customers choose colour, size, and cut, basing their requests on photos posted to the Facebook page. The handmade garments range in price between $60 and $250. Currently Nan and Tuaine are only providing for women and young girls, but they haven’t ruled out men’s garments.
As the Cook Islands loses its people to New Zealand and Australia, as happy-hour conversations turn to the lack of opportunity at home, local girls like Tuaine and Nan are proof that you can make your own success, right here on Rarotonga. They’re doing it with just a Facebook page, a lot of passion, and a little bit of lace.
Find Heihere Designs on Facebook to see clothes and place an order. Nan and Tuaine want to thank the local businesses, particularly Turama Photography, who have supported their new venture.