Aigalesala Toelupe, a freshman from American Samoa majoring in psychology, said she has come to realize her journey into the field of design was more than just a hobby. She said it was destiny waiting to be created in the material aspects of her life as she continued to pursue her interests, such as clothing design. She especially highlighed her most recent work. From her humble beginnings, Aigalesala Toelupe expressed her desire as a fashion designer has been a weaving of creativity, tenacity and an unwavering enthusiasm for fashion colors and styles to adorn the world.
She said she became interested in design because of her grandmother’s love of sewing. “My grandmother designed and sewed a lot of my mom’s and aunt’s clothes for school, pageants and holidays, and I believe that love and passion for pageantry was passed down to me,” she said. She explained her grandmother Lusila, after whom she was named, taught her to be presentable no matter the occasion.
Aigalesala Toelupe said growing up, her mother and sisters were both involved in pageants. “I was crowned Miss of my high school in Samoa, and then ran for Miss Hawaii Plus in 2022 and was crowned Miss Aloha Spirit,” Aigalesala Toelupe explained. “In this pageant, I designed some of my own outfits,” she continued. “Not everything turned out the way I wanted it to because it was sewn overseas and only arrived the night before the pageant, but I learned from the women in my life that what you wear is less important than how you wear it,” she noted.
Balancing motherhood, passion and dreams in fashion
Aigalesala Toelupe noted she has a specific resource she uses to guide her fashion designs and styles. However, she relied primarily on the environment around her from “everything around you; people, shows, nature, your occupation,” she added. Despite her lack of knowledge about the fashion industry, she said in order to gain knowledge, she enjoyed watching fashion shows. “I love watching fashion competition shows such as “Project Runway,” “Next in Fashion,” and even pageants because it shows the process of creation that goes on behind the scenes of making beautiful clothing. It’s inspiring to see how other creators and designers make something fabulous out of nothing and anything.”
She spoke about some of her favorite fashion influencers, whom she follows on social media. She said, “Displaying and selling my prints and designs has benefited my life and family financially.” Looking back at her experiences, she said “I think that’s initially where I had my first spark of interest in fashion designing.”
“Going to a fashion school was a dream,” she said. Although it was always just a dream, she said it has now become her hobby. Aigalesala Toelupe said she believes she can seize the opportunity, adding, “It is still something I am thinking about doing as a business in the future.” She said balancing being a mother and a fashion designer was a true blessing in disguise. “As a mother, I realized it was easy to lose myself in motherhood and my kids inspired me to pursue my happiness,” she said.
Robert Toelupe, Aigalesala’s husband from American Samoa, said, “My wife is many things. To her family, she is a loving wife, mother, daughter, supportive sister and counselor,” he said. He described his wife as completely different and an active person in creating fashion. “When my wife is creating, she has a whole vibe that you can easily identify the passion she has for it, anywhere and on any platform whether it’s fashion, interior decorating, or even social media,” said Robert Toelupe.
“Her love for designing and creating just emanates from her very being,” he said. As he observes his wife in their relationship, Robert Toelupe said he sees her as a natural-born performer who enjoys all performing arts, including singing and dancing, which he believes is where her inspiration to create and design comes from. “My wife is the creator she is now because of her deep love and respect for all cultures, music and dance.”
Weaving traditions and trends in fashion design
Aigalesala Toelupe said she is fascinated by the designs she creates and she wants to ensure her creations are unique and one-of-a-kind, rather than imitations or copies of other designs. She noted she values originality and uniqueness in her work.
She said considering modern fashion industry trending styles, which she views through her social media fashion influence, had a great impact and contributed to her designs and products. She still wants to learn more, saying, “I definitely could spend more time in our school sewing room.” According to Aigalesala Toelupe, she has a variety of different styles and designs that can be seen in her closet. She expressed she likes a range of colors but prefers vibrant colors.
Even though she is intrigued by Western fashion styles, she said, “Most of my creative styles are done with cultural wear.” She explained cultural wear and culture in general are unique statements in and of themselves. She expressed her desire to integrate modern wear and cultural wear in the fashion industry.
Michelle Fanene, a customer of Aigalesala Toelupe, said her experience with the designer has amazing and recommended it to anyone who is interested after scoring it a 10 out of 10. “The owner, Aigalesala Toelupe, offered me a variety of options that are perfect for any and every occasion,” said Fanene. “I believe her sense and love for promoting fashion in this day and age were important for me personally because I had no idea how much fashion contributed to my mental health.”
Fanene said after only a few visits with her and being styled by her, she was already looking and feeling more confident in herself.
Aigalesala Toelupe expressed she enjoys fabric shopping because she spends a lot of time looking at different materials including textures, colors and prints. She said she visualizes how a fabric will look when choosing it, especially when designing a puletasi (a traditional Samoan outfit consisting of a top and a skirt) for herself or others.
She explained she does her own sketching, measuring and designing, as well as coordinating efforts with the tailor to assist in sewing out the material according to her specifications.
“Depending on the type of event I design for, whether casual or formal, I prefer to wear formal attire,” said Aigalesala Toelupe.
She expressed starting a business as a fashion designer would undoubtedly have advantages and disadvantages. However, she said she enjoys what she does. “I honestly just design and wear what I like to wear and I love seeing other people do the same. If I ever start a fashion business, it would be out of passion rather than competition,” she said.
Puna Novian, one of Aigalesala Toelupe’s customers from Texas, said, “I had an amazing experience as a customer because it was fun and stress free in a way that I liked her style and her positivity in fashion designing.” Novian said she had always been unsure of how to put outfits together and Aigalesala Topelupe showed her ideas on pairing items and matching outfits. “I think her idea of using social media platforms is smart because the content is fun and relatable, and it is one of today’s generation’s main sources,” said Novian.
Aigalesala Toelupe said, “In 2023, at BYUH, I started my TikTok fashion journey, praying for guidance and I include #JesusInMyJourney in the hopes of inspiring others. I tried to be the best version of myself in everything I do.” Despite her own struggles, she said she has always served as an example to others and has experienced many blessings.
“I achieved my first collaboration with a plus-size brand in July, kick-started my fashion Instagram, and hosted a successful live sale,” she said. She expressed gratitude to her family and friends, saying she would not have gotten as far as she had without their support.
The following are her platforms as a fashion designer: