Tailoring is a common business for women in Vanuatu as all it requires is a sewing machine and sewing skills. However to create contemporary pieces, it requires more than just skills – creativity and talented is needed and that’s exactly what Anna Issachar possesses.
The impressive Fijian lady shares her inspiring story about her successful tailoring business, which offers unique creations that reflect the 21st century fashion trends in Vanuatu. She also shares the challenges faced and achievements gained in the path of establishing her own business. Lastly she voices her opinions on discrimination against women in Vanuatu.
I am originally from Fiji but had come to Vanuatu in 1966 with my family because my parents served as missionaries to Vanuatu. I have two sisters and one brother. I grew up here and was raised in a Seventh-Day-Adventist household. Now I am married to a Ni-Vanuatu and we have four daughters and a son. I also have grandchildren, four boys and one girl.
My mother was a tailor and I had grown up watching her sew but I never tried to sew myself. It was only with the arrival of my eldest daughter, Helene, that I started sewing for the first time. I made little dresses and clothes for her.
My tailor business is more than 30 years old
In 1980, I started sewing professionally at the Women’s Handicraft Centre at Centre Point in Port Vila. After a few years, I decided to open my own tailor shop at my local residence and have been operating for nearly 30 years!
Travelling down memory lane, I honestly never thought that my little tailor shop would be as successful as it is now. In the past, my creations were simple and I had only a few customers. Balancing motherhood and holding down my tailor shop was quite easy because I wasn’t that busy during that time.
Even though I don’t advertise, nowadays I have a lot of customers, which provides me with a steady income. I am always busy and sometimes I have to refuse my customers’ orders when things get too hectic. Luckily for me all my children are grown-up now.
Another challenge is that everyone wants to dress fashionably in this present time and my creations must revolve around current fashion trends.
I wish I started my business earlier
Looking back, I truly wish I had started my tailoring business earlier in my youth days. I would have had the luxury of spending the income I earned on my own desires and needs. It would have been very rewarding and satisfactory. Currently I am the sole breadwinner of my family and the income I earn is used to sustain my family’s living. My personal needs and wants are pushed to the bottom of the list and my family’s needs and desires are placed first.
Being the sole breadwinner is quite challenging. In fact it is the most challenging thing I have to face as a woman! Knowing your whole family depends on you is always troubling. I constantly worry about not getting sick. If I fall ill, I may not be able to work so how will my family survive? This is my biggest fear.
The greatest accomplishment I have today is my tailor shop. I have not studied to be a professional tailor yet here I am. I like to see people happy and pleased with their outfits when I am done with them. People bring me their materials and their own designs and I try my best to create something that suits their expectations.
In addition, I also add my own personal touch to make their outfits more appealing. I have to say that my creativity has increased and this has helped me in creating different creations. Seeing my simple tailoring business well updated in fashion is a great achievement.
Women deserve to be treated like queens
Through my own observations on our society I would say that women are still being treated unfairly, especially in our islands. Men still expect women to have second class treatment. For instance, if a man and his wife are coming back from the garden and the man will walk home empty-handed while his wife is carrying the garden crops.
In town, women are still facing abuse and we need to speak out against it. Personally I feel safe voicing my opinion on the discrimination of women and will continue speaking out. Men should know that women are to be treated with respect and love like queens!
On the other hand, women should also take control of their own lives and create their own bright future. I see a lot of women who are lazy and do not want to improve their lives. They need to stand up for themselves and seek skills to start their own businesses or just do something worthy for themselves. Women need to stop depending on men and start preparing their future as well as their family.
Story and photography by Joanita Meltebury