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Passion for fashion motivates 66-year-old EIT student to aim for career in industry

June 24, 2022

Sixty-six-year-old Aiaikitekura Kavana is loving studying fashion at EIT.

Not wanting to have any regrets, a 66-year-old Cook Island woman is turning her life’s passion into a potential career by studying fashion at EIT.

Aiaikitekura Kavana is in her second year of a Bachelor of Creative Practice (Fashion).

It is not the first time she has studied at the institute, having previously graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Practice (Visual Arts & Design) in 2015. However, it is the culmination of a long-held dream.

“I’m actually doing it because it’s something that I don’t want to regret not doing and hopefully it’ll take me somewhere. It was always in the back of my mind about fashion. And doing it now, I wish I had done it back then.”

Aiaikitekura has had a number of jobs in the past – everything and anything from working in the freezing works, to real estate and taxi driving. But none of them have felt right.

Added to that have been consistent health issues with her back which have meant she has been unable to work for several years now.

“I suppose there was never one thing that I found I was happy in. It was all about survival. I was a single mum, raising my daughter and trying to make ends meet.

“So, to actually think about taking out a student loan was something I couldn’t do, especially when you’re living week to week. Creating a debt always frightened me but over the years I suppose I got to a point where I needed to take the risk.”

Aiaikitekura moved to New Zealand when she was 10-years-old, but her love for fashion began on the Islands when she would spend time with her mother and other ladies in the village sewing Tivaivai (traditional Cook Island embroidered bedspreads).

She vividly remembers the first garment she made – a dress.

“I was about 12-years-old. Mum bought the fabric, and I didn’t like it, but it was more the process of creating the dress myself which I loved.”  

The degree has taught her more about herself and what she is capable of doing. It has also deepened her love of the industry.

“I love creating, and I love learning and knowing how to do it all and the different elements of the creative process.”

Throughout her current degree, she has incorporated her culture and love of Cook Island design and embroidery into her garments.

Most recently, she created a three-piece menswear with Tivaivai elements, inspired by her belief that men can wear anything they choose to.

Aiaikitekura used yellow corduroy fabric from stock her late mother bought more than 40 years ago for the coat.

She says using the fabric is a way of honouring her mother and the impact she had on her life.