The Story Behind MENA: From Samoa to Global Fashion

The Story Behind MENA: From Samoa to Global Fashion

Posted by Agnes Loheni on

In the heart of the South Pacific, amidst the azure waters and swaying palms of Samoa, a tale of passion, creativity, and cultural pride began to unfold. It was here, in 2002, that Mena Loheni and her four daughters - Agnes, Jackie, Gina, and Charlene - embarked on a journey that would ultimately shape the landscape of Pacific-inspired fashion.

Born out of a deep love for their Samoan heritage and a desire to share its beauty with the world, MENA was more than just a fashion brand; it was a celebration of Polynesian culture, tradition, and family unity.

Mena Loheni learned how to sew at school in Samoa when she was only twelve. She was a naturally gifted dressmaker and possessed exceptional sewing skills, demonstrating mastery in her craft. When she turned fifteen, Mena moved to Auckland with some of her siblings to finish her schooling. After she left school she found work as a sewing machinist. 

A few years later Mena met her husband Fepuleai Frank Loheni whose family had also arrived to New Zealand from Samoa. When their children were born Mena started taking sewing jobs at home so she could be at home with their children. Word got out in the Samoan community in Auckland about Mena's exceptional sewing talent and soon there was a growing list of customers coming to their home for custom orders. This kept Mena very busy but she was grateful that her talent allowed her to support her family, to serve her wider family and to be at home with her young children. Mena, a devout Catholic, insisted that her talent was God given and that she should use it to serve those in need. Mena would give generously of her time and talent  to sew for families who were going through grief or hardship. 

Growing up, Mena's daughters Agnes, Jackie, Gina and Charlene were used to their mother's home enterprise.  Bundles of fabric stacked in every corner, loose thread all over floor, boxes of patterns, shelves full of cotton thread, the soft hum of the sewing machine from in the morning until very late at night. Their mother could whip them up a new dress for church, a special birthday or the school ball - and she could do it just from a photo. She even made all their wedding dresses.

In the late 1990s Mena went back to Samoa. She was providing a custom tailoring service until 2002 when her daughters decided to make their own designs using their hand-printed fabric inspired by local floral motifs and traditional tapa cloth designs. The daughters decided to name their label MENA. They started selling from home and then a year later as their name grew they decided to open a store in the main shopping area in Apia.

As the label expanded to New Zealand in 2006, it brought with it a fresh perspective on Pacific-inspired fashion, catering to a diverse demographic of women with Pacific Island heritage.

For Mena and her daughters their garments are more than just clothing; it was a canvas through which they could express their identity as Samoans growing up in a western society; serve their community and celebrate a culture that is vibrant and family focused.  With inspiration from the vibrant colours, bold prints, and warm spirit of the Pacific Islands, they set out to create collections that captured the essence of Polynesian beauty in both a traditional and contemporary way.

What sets MENA apart is its unwavering commitment to authenticity and craftsmanship. Each garment is meticulously crafted, with exclusive prints and designs that are a testament to the brand's dedication to preserving and promoting Polynesian culture. From elegant dresses to flowing kaftans and tailored puletasi, every piece is infused with the warmth, hospitality, and heart of Samoan and Pacific Island cultures.

But beyond the garments themselves lies a deeper story - one of family, unity, and empowerment. For Mena and her daughters, MENA is not just a business; it is a labour of love, a tribute to their mother's work ethic, integrity, and compassion. It is a way of honouring their heritage and inspiring future generations to embrace their cultural identity with pride.

As MENA continues to evolve and grow, its vision remains clear: to take its slice of paradise to the global fashion stage. With distribution reaching customers in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and beyond, the brand has become synonymous with Pacific-inspired elegance and sophistication.

Today, MENA stands as a beacon of cultural pride and creativity, offering versatile pieces suitable for various occasions, from casual outings to special events. But more than that, it is a symbol of empowerment for women of Polynesian descent - a reminder that their heritage is something to be celebrated, cherished, and shared with the world.

With every stitch, every motif, and every ensemble, the story of MENA unfolds—a testament to resilience, passion, and the enduring charm of Polynesia and its rich tapestry of cultures. As the brand continues to inspire and elevate, it stands as a tribute to the strength of family, the empowerment of women, and the transformative power of compassion.

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THE STORY BEHIND MENA: From Samoa to Global Fashion

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