Wednesday, 1 October 2014

First official Ba Women’s luxury jewellery launched in Suva


If you have ever searched for locally-made, high-quality jewellery in Fiji, chances are you were pretty disappointed. The truth is most available luxury items have been produced en masse outside of the South Pacific. And, given the items aren’t local, the sale of these imported products has limited livelihood benefits for Fiji people.

However, the ACIAR/Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI) project, ‘Assessing potential for developing the mother-of-pearl (MOP) handicraft sector in Fiji: Empowering women’s’ groups and livelihood development in Fiji’ has tackled this issue and is turning it around.

New mother-of-pearl (MOP) jewellery handcrafted by members of Fiji’s *Ba Women’s Forum(BWF), was launched at an event staged in Suva in September at the well-known Tappoo ‘Market Place’ retail outlet. The jewellery range encompasses 20 variations of fashion wear and 14 variations of everyday wear items. For the first time since the PARDI research project began in 2013, fashion connoisseurs and retail representatives had the opportunity to view and purchase the jewellery, and discuss being part of the new venture.
Models showing off the mother-of-pearl jewellery handcrafted by the Ba Women's Forum.
Traditional and modern artistry are integrated into the new jewellery designs with dominant use of the MOP shell. Products are made from local materials to enhance ‘Fiji-made’ accreditation. The uniqueness and quality of these products position them in the premium value of +FJ$100 for the fashion range and +FJ$50 for everyday wear. 

The Suva launch means this range of jewellery items is now available for purchase by the general public. Interest is such that, in addition to the original stockists Tappoo, other retail outlets would like to stock the jewellery and well-known cruise ships are happy for Ba Women to sell products to tourists visiting Fiji.
The newly released Fiji-made mother-of-pearl jewellery is professionally presented with the Ba Women’s Forum's story about hand-made, local merchandise printed on the inside cover of their boxes.
How do these developments translate in terms of potential opportunities for the local economy? The ACIAR/PARDI project has identified an annual market value of around FJ$4 million for Fiji’s MOP handicrafts and pearl sector, of which currently only around 10% is met by local production.

Prior to the MOP launch, the project involved a rolling series of workshops on MOP jewellery product development. Local women’s group, the BWF, and the local Ba Town Council have worked closely with PARDI, jewellery designer Marie Erl, and Fiji-based fashion designer Robert Kennedy.
 
Ba Women's Forum team from left: Ms Marie Erl, Dr Maria Doton (Chair of BWF), Vani Saurara (trainee) and Theo Simos (project manager, University of Adelaide).

This project is providing an excellent opportunity to empower mature-aged, unemployed women and men. Trainees have achieved a basic level of capability, and will participate in further training to expand their jewellery-making skills and to develop their business and marketing capacity.

The long-term future of the MOP project will depend on further research funding to train interested locals and value-chain representatives towards the establishment of business models, and their own jewellery-making companies for sustainable and profitable livelihood benefits.
 
Vani Saurara (Ba Women's Forum trainee) and model Kirsten.
 
 ‘Assessing potential for developing the mother-of-pearl (MOP) handicraft sector in Fiji: Empowering women’s’ groups and livelihood development in Fiji’ is led by James Cook University’s Professor Paul Southgate and Adelaide University’s Research Associate Theo Simos. It builds on work undertaken by the University of the South Pacific’s Dr Anand Chand and his project team.
* Ba is a town in Fiji, 37 kilometres from Lautoka and 62 kilometres from Nadi, inland from the coast of Viti Levu, Fiji's largest island.
 
For more information contact:
Research Associate, Theo Simos – M: 0417816160 or theosimos@bigpond.com
PARDI Communications, Julie Lloyd – M: 0415 799 890

Links for further information:
The ACIAR/PARDI handicrafts project is part of a suite of pearl projects led by James Cook University. More information can be found in ‘Fisheries Profiles 2014

Associated stories and YouTube link are listed below:
PARDI news articles on mother-of-pearl (MOP) handicraft and jewellery training in Fiji
ACIAR blog on opening up industry opportunities
PARDI YouTube supporting the role of Pacific women

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