BY CHRIS ALEX
SOLOMON Islanders often view tailoring as exclusively for females, but Joe Lovi, a tailor, inherited the passion from his mother from a young age.
Joe, a successful entrepreneur and owner of HJ Sewing Centre, shares his new tailoring business, providing women in the country with theoretical and practical tailoring education. He has been teaching basic drafting in tailoring classes for years, offering certificates to trainees and pattern cutters to create tailored patterns for men’s and women’s wear.
In this story, Joe shares his journey from humble beginnings in Rakao Village, a rural area in the northern region of Malaita province.
The Humble Beginnings
Joe’s mother bought a Singer sewing machine in 1982 with the straightforward goal of mending clothing for her family. Her lack of sewing machine skill became a barrier, and the machine sat idle for years, drawing jeers from the village people.
“In 1982, the mother bought a Singer sewing machine to patch broken clothing, but found it challenging due to her lack of experience, despite seeing other women in the village using sewing machines effectively.
“The sewing machine became a joke in the village, she would tell other guys in the town to come fix it as if the sewing machine were broken, but the issue was actually with her because she didn’t know how to operate it,” he recounted.
In 1987, Joe picked up the machine out of curiosity and perseverance, and by a series of fortunate mishaps, he was able to sew two pieces of fabric together. His enthusiasm for stitching was sparked at this crucial moment.
With his newly acquired talent, Joe began mending clothing for his community and turning used rice sacks into shoe bags for soccer players. His skills and clients expanded, and moms from the village started bringing him materials to make straightforward elastic athletic pants for their kids. He was motivated to move on by the satisfaction of being paid for his sewing labor.
“Since then, I have been able to fix ripped clothing as well as the clothing of other children and adults in our town for $2.00. Also, out of nowhere, mothers in the village would bring one or two yards for me to do guess cutting of simple elastic sport pants for their kids at $5.00 for how many pieces I could possibly sew from their fabrics. I used to turn empty bags of rice into shoe bags for soccer players for $2.00.
“From 1987 to 1991, while I was in primary school, the thought of being able to make money through sewing was a powerful motivator for me to pursue that path. Additionally, I was able to fix other women’s sewing machines in the village for fun and without payment because I wasn’t really sure what the issues with each sewing machine were, which was another skill I had learned from my experience with my mother’s sewing machine,” Joe said.
Steadfast Education and Growth
Joe’s focus changed as he progressed through his academic career, but his love of sewing persisted. Later, he pursued teaching as well as studies in Marine Science and employment at the Ministry of the Environment. The want to use the sewing machine lingered, though. Joe took the time to improve his skills, traversing different training courses and even consulting online acquaintances for advice. He eventually founded the HJ Sewing Center, a business dedicated to assisting people in realizing their sewing potential, equipped with a lot of expertise and knowledge.
“I worked at the ADRA Solomon Islands from 2009 till the end of 2013, when I decided to retire. I and my family were able to get by from 2014 to 2018 (5 years) because to my wife’s income, sewing, and pattern drawing trainings. Our “HJ Sewing Center” microbusiness was officially registered. Early this year, I was able to revive HJ Sewing Center’s registration as a legitimate small firm with Company Haus.
“I ultimately made the decision to discover the best location to improve my skills so that I could measure, draw, and sew. Back then, there were many training programs available, but the first one I went to didn’t instruct us in design, drafting, or sewing. Only readily available patterns are cut, and then they are sewn for our larger projects. The second location I go to, they gave me a one-week introduction to the fundamentals of drafting, but it was so brief that I didn’t really understand everything I learned. After this one-week instruction, I also had the issue that they didn’t connect me to sewing; instead, they just gave me measurements and drafted some patterns, and I had to figure out how to cut and sew on my own.
“My search for a comprehensive course was not over; I looked everywhere and found internet pals who helped me by supporting the dissemination of information through their written works.
“As part of my capacity building efforts to better myself, I will receive an advanced diploma in fashion design by the end of this year. I’m moving in this way because I want to improve my skills and stay current with the newest fashion trends and technological advancements.
“Using CAD (Computer Aided Design) to draw and design using specialized CAD software to produce quality designs and patterns that are accurate and professional) is my last frontier that I would like to reach before I retire,” he stated.
Empowering the Community
In addition to teaching sewing, HJ Sewing Center wanted to change people’s lives. No matter their gender, Joe wanted to give everyone a second shot to learn a skill that would help them support their family. He disproved prejudices by encouraging guys to enter the traditionally feminine field of sewing and fashion design.
The Uphill Battle and Unyielding Determination
The path Joe took wasn’t without difficulties. Traditionalists who held the view that fashion design was only the purview of women were skeptical of him. He was met with mocking remarks and opposition, but he persisted. His passion for sewing and unrelenting commitment to helping others gave him the drive to persevere in the face of adversity.
“As a local male designer and tailor, nothing is more demoralizing and pointless than to encounter narrow-minded individuals who believe that this industry is exclusively for women. Since the beginning of my profession as a local designer and tailor, I have had to deal with this at every step of the way.
“The so-called pioneers of this profession have been making demeaning remarks to me, and this group of females continually tries to get in my way in anything I do to support my family. I simply wonder if they prioritize completing their own work rather than acting as watchdogs in every neighborhood, as the Pharisees did to Jesus. But what kept me going was the fact that I don’t care a darn about anyone who attacked me for doing good for the citizens of this country; let them be among the talkers, and I WILL BE AMONG THE DOERS who work to assist someone who is desperately trying to sustain their family.
Looking Ahead with a Heart Full of Gratitude
In Joe’s story, hardship is overcome with success. His life’s course was altered by his mother’s unanticipated desire to purchase a sewing machine. Joe Lovi serves as a symbol of optimism today, demonstrating that aspirations may come true with perseverance, hard effort, and a willingness to defy social expectations.
“I would like to take this opportunity to praise and thank God for his generosity and love. I wouldn’t exist without Him. I would not have made it this far without God, but with Him, anything is possible. I dedicate all my accomplishments to Him. All praise be to God.
“Secondly, I’d like to express my gratitude to my mother for her unexpected dream of purchasing the equipment that was intended for her but was never used. If not for that sewing machine, I’m not sure where I would have ended up in the last 36 years. The Holy Spirit really speaks to your heart to prepare that sewing machine for me as a lifetime present, so I now know it wasn’t a coincidence. Even if the sewing machine was already rusted, the talent and passion it helped me develop in my heart are still very much alive. He said, “I LOVE YOU MUM.”
An Inspiring Message
Aspiring fashion designers and tailors would do well to follow Joe’s advice to dream large and have faith in God.
“Never let petty thinking get in the way of your achievement; think broadly, set ambitious goals, and work tirelessly to realize them; utilize criticism as a springboard for improvement; Create a network of like-minded individuals; never give up since success comes to those who endure; and, most importantly, keep your humility, faith in God, and confidence in your abilities,” he advised.
Joe’s success is a credit to his family’s unwavering support, the sewing machine skills he learned from his mother, and the advice he received from friends and mentors along the road. He gratefully appreciates the heavenly inspiration behind his voyage and dedicates his successes to God and his mother’s unanticipated dream.