Afa Ah Loo
Afa Ah Loo is a fashion designer who became well known through his appearance on television’s “Project Runway.”
He came to fashion design via a high school sewing class. He wouldn’t have been in that class but for burning brownies in a home economics class in his native Samoa. He was late to register for classes and home economics was the only class with space. His first assignment in that class was making brownies, which he fried instead of baked. His product went up in flames and his teacher told him cooking was not his thing and pointed him to sewing instead. He completed the class project (a mitten) in two days and he was hooked. His teacher told him to make another, so he completed about 40. The class taught him how to operate a sewing machine, but he has been largely self-taught in fashion and sewing.
He applied three times unsuccessfully to compete on Bravo’s “Project Runway,” and the show’s producers encouraged him to try one more time. Although he considers himself a fast sewer, he found the designing under a tight deadline challenging. He is remembered for his bold florals and colors and for his generosity to other contestants. Although he was eliminated from the competition, a poll found 94 percent of viewers felt the judges had made a big mistake.
Ah Loo is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served as a full-time missionary to Salt Lake City and returned to Salt Lake after completing his mission. He and his wife, Laura, are the parents of a daughter.
He studied political science at Brigham Young University-Hawaii. However, he has always been interested in fashion design despite his Polynesian background of defined gender roles. He said people had misperceptions about him and his sexuality because of his interest in fashion, but his mother, who passed away in 2014, encouraged him to follow his dreams. She told him, “Who cares what anyone thinks? You know who you are.”
He was a marketing manager and a teacher before he plunged into designing full time. He has been recognized on a worldwide stage at places such as Fiji Fashion week and LA Fashion week. He created dresses for Miss World Samoa contestant Latafale Auva for the Miss World 2015 Pageant in China. One of his designs has been on display at Buckingham Palace. His Amioga Samoa collection was inspired by his mother.