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Pacific Fashion as Art: Embracing Your Heritage in the Workplace

Maintaining cultural identity can be challenging in a world that is becoming increasingly globalised. However, for young professionals from the Pacific, fashion has become a powerful tool for expressing their unique cultural heritage and artistic flair in the workplace.

Flower with vague city outline in background
Source: zero take

According to Tcherkézoff (2008), Pacific Island clothing has always been an embodiment of cultural symbols and narratives. In the workplace, young Pacific professionals can wear pieces inspired by their culture, such as patterned shirts, dresses, or accessories that reflect Pacific fashion design and elements. This showcases their identity and adds a vibrant artistic touch to the professional environment.


Woman smiling with garland of leaves around neck

Art and abstract expression (which I manifest as 'fashion') are political representations of personal values. So, for example, what I wear to work every day, and what I choose to accessorise with - they are my personality, my personal representation... and ultimately my identity, ergo, my brand.


To wield this in organisational cultures that I have found to be very 'black-and-white' in both the Solomon Island and Australian workplaces has been a very therapeutic and fulfilling journey.


Fashion as an abstract expression of self has been widely accepted in the modern workplace. According to a study by Peluchette and Karl (2007), what we wear at work can significantly influence how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. By incorporating elements of Pacific fashion into workplace attire, young professionals express their cultural pride and foster diversity and inclusion.


If there's one thing I've learnt during COVID, it's definitely that my art can do whatever I have the courage to do. Wear your flowers, sis!


However, it is essential to strike a balance between self-expression and professionalism. Research by Rafaeli and Pratt (2006) indicates that while workplaces have become more accepting of individuality, there are still norms and expectations to consider. Therefore, it's about finding a harmonious fusion of Pacific aesthetics and professional attire.


Thus, as young Pacific professionals, fashion can be a canvas for abstract expression and cultural celebration in the workplace. It's about embracing who you are, and where you come from, and sharing that with the world around you.

What are you wearing to work today?
Woman with flowers in hair, and blue dress

This is not an everyday work look, but if you've been invited to an event that says 'Island Formal' as the dress code - this is what we mean.


An island print dress or shirt (for the men), and we love our flowers in our hair, or behind an ear (but again, even that holds significance - for another blog and another day though).






References:

Peluchette, J. V., & Karl, K. (2007). The impact of workplace attire on employee self‐perceptions. Human resource development quarterly, 18(3), 345-360.


Pratt, M. G., & Rafaeli, A. (2013). Artifacts and organizations: Understanding our “objective” reality. In Artifacts and organizations (pp. 279-288). Psychology Press.


Tcherk, S. (2008). First Contacts in Polynesia: The Samoan Case (1722-1848) Western Misunderstandings about Sexuality and Divinity (p. 241). ANU Press.

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