”Ellena Tavioni-Pittman is the name and face behind TAV designs. TAV’s name is derived from Ellena Tavioni herself, a designer from a long line of artists: sculptors, carvers, painters and poets who have influenced her life and work. Born and raised on her island home of Atiu, north of Rarotonga, Ellena’s strong work ethics encourages others to aspire to great entrepreneurial successes. “My papa taught me to work hard for anything I wanted, never steal, be kind to others and the list goes on. He was an excellent motivator and told me when I was only a little girl way back in the late 1960s that times had changed and career opportunities for women were no longer limited”
Tav designer prints are what ‘tapa’ designs are to Fiji and Tonga, and what ‘dot painting’ is to the Australian 1st People. Her career in the clothing industry began in 1980 where she opened her first store at the age of 19. Realising she needed experience in the fashion industry, she went on to study fashion design at the Melbourne College of Textiles for three years and obtained further skill by working in the clothing industry in Melbourne for an additional 2 years prior to returning to the Cook Islands and creating her dream – TAV. Established in 1987 TAV the brand represents the romance and escapism in capturing the mood of the Pacific by utilizing traditional motifs, such as sea life, flora and fauna patterns in print designs – namely block printing, hand painting and dip dyeing all of which are done by hand using various fabric paint and techniques. Printing is labour intensive using natural sunlight of the Cook Islands to dry prints prior to heat setting.
In 1994 TAV undertook the manufacturing of swimwear and further developed the resort-wear concept. This included the construction of a new building, the purchase of special machinery, consultants, staff training, the development and advancement of new printing techniques, promotional material for marketing abroad and continuous market analysis. Tav employs 20 staff with responsibilities ranging from printing, hand painting, pattern making, cutting, seamstress, finishing, quality control, retail, and administration. All employees are trained on the premises.
As each piece of fabric is created on the island of Rarotonga, TAV is able to produce orders of any size either small or large. The range of clothing is beautiful, elegantly unique, comfortable to wear, of good quality and of medium to up-market in standard.
TAV has identified the export market as its focal point. Tourism has been a major influence in providing this direction and the move towards swimwear and resort wear. The export market is now TAV’s major source of income followed by the visitor market to the Cook Islands and it’s New Zealand store. Sales to the local market are also a vital part of Tav’s business.
TAV now exports to Australia, New-Zealand, Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa and other Pacific Islands. The label has also been exported to countries as far as London, the South of France and the United Arab Emirates.
The Cook Islands Business & Professional Women’s Association crowned her the Cook Islands Women of the Year in 2005. TAV also has participated in the past, in the New Zealand Fashion Week, a major achievement for the Cook Islands company which Ellena regards as one of the highlights of her career.
Profile from TAV Pacific Auckland