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Under the Spotlight

Twelve months on since Queenstown based Peni Moala appeared on the television show Project Runway NZ the budding designer remains focused on establishing a wholesale fashion line.

“The fashion industry is very tough to get into particularly if you don’t have any backing, but I know if I work hard and believe in myself then eventually, I will get there,” says Peni. “What I loved about being on the show was that it gave a platform to so many talented designers.”

Moala was selected as one of the top five designers on Project Runway NZafter his friends encouraged him to enter and says he achieved the three main goals he set himself.

“I wanted to try and win and saw it as an opportunity to make a name for myself and create a following. Business these days is all about following and the show definitely helped in that sense. I still get people coming up or doing a double take and asking if they know me.”

His full-time role as the fabric department head at Queenstown’s Spotlight store is ideal while developing his fashion label, BENi.

“We have one of New Zealand’s largest fabric ranges at Spotlight and our customers come from all over Central Otago and Southland to shop here. I am particularly fond of the quilting ladies who come in shopping for fabrics to complete their designs. They are really talented and creative and my whole team love helping them to find right the fabrics and colours.”

Born in Tonga, Peni says his culture, upbringing and lineage inform his clothing designs.

“My Mum first taught me to sew, then I completed a course in basic sewing and have been designing and creating clothes since then. Currently I am working on one key design for men and one for women for summer that I hope to wholesale.”

“I have a real passion for this industry and am grateful that the producers of Project Runway NZ portrayed all the contestantsin an authentic way. My biggest concern was that we might come across as different but what you saw on the screen was real. We all had the same goal and faced the same challenges, so it was exciting to be part of and to watch.”