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Returned Missionary Stuns Judges on "Project Runway" + Why He Credits God and His Mom for His Success

Afa Ah Loo's love of fashion and designing is the product of a series of life-changing and fated mishaps. After arriving late for class registration, Afa was placed in the only elective that still had available spots—home economics.

“The very first week, we were cooking brownies, I believe,” Afa told The Salt Lake Tribune. “Instead of baking something, I fried it and I almost burned down the kitchen. It went up in flames. And the teacher was like, ‘I think cooking is not your thing. I think maybe we should switch you over to sewing.’"

What should have taken Afa the entire semester to create—a hand mitten—he finished in two days. After that he sewed dozens more mittens as well as a Sunday dress for his little sister, "and since then he has never looked back," his Project Runway profile says.

The Samoa native learned much of what he knows about fashion, design, and sewing from his mother and feels his home surroundings in Samoa inspired him to incorporate bold florals and colors that help his designs stand out. And Afa has already made an unforgettable impression on the show. From the first episode, Elle magazine listed Afa as one of the standouts to keep an eye out for. Host Karli Kloss and judges Brandon Maxwell and Nina Garci raved about Afa's design, going wild for the well-tailored pants and creative foot covers he created that week.

But many remember Afa for his generosity on the show after he helped a fellow contestant, Frankie Lewis, by encouraging her, hugging her, and then buckling down and helping her in the sewing room.

Afa credits his mother for inspiring him to buck traditional Samoan stereotypes and follow his passion. After serving a mission to Salt Lake City, Utah, and attending BYU-Hawaii with plans to become a lawyer or FBI agent, Afa told The Salt Lake Tribune, "My mom was the one who really pushed me and said, ‘You know what? Who cares what anyone thinks? You know who you are. You are comfortable with who you are. Just do whatever.’”

After his mother passed away in 2014, Afa decided to put his hesitations aside and follow her advice. Since then, Afa has stunned audiences at fashion weeks from Fiji to Los Angeles and even had his designs displayed in Buckingham Palace after he was chosen to create a bespoke look for The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange. 

"Here she is in all her glory! Standing there in the magnificent Buckingham Palace. Literally a room down from the 'Crown Room,'" Afa wrote on Instagram. "I wanted to take this time and thank a few people who have helped me with this look and this journey!" Included in that list was "My Heavenly Father who has blessed me with this talent and who has allowed me every opportunity to become better and grow as a human being!"

 





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R O Y A L // Here she is in all her glory! Standing there in the magnificent Buckingham Palace. Literally a room down from the “Crown Room”. I wanted to take this time and thank a few people who have helped me with this look and this journey! @ecoage for giving me this amazing opportunity to showcase my design! @theroyalfamily for opening your home and allowing artisans and creatives from the Commonwealth countries to come and collaborate and feel inspired by each other. @meganmcewan2 and Mike of @veryjane for literally helping me get to London. Your generosity and support is unquestionably overwhelming and I thank you for that. I am forever grateful! @aliiras_backdrops for the amazing foam flowers. And for just being the amazing supportive big sister that you are! I love you so much! @thelovelyave for the beautifully handcrafted paper flowers! Your vision is incredible and this dress wouldn’t have been complete without your creations! The artisan who created the antique Papua New Guinean necklace that everyone loved! My late father Safiu Samuelu who hand-braided the ‘afa or the sinnet that I used to create the belt! I hope you’re proud of me and especially proud of yourself for creating a piece that ended up in front of the royal family! My amazing assistant @kylmrry for helping me put together this outfits! You’re awesome dude! My beautiful wife @laramarie12 who is my rock and number one supporter through all of this. You make every single day a work of art filled with joy laughter and never ending experiences that will last forever! I love you my pele! My Heavenly Father who has blessed me with this talent and who has allowed me every opportunity to become better and grow as a human being! And last but certainly not the least, all of YOU! My friends, family, fans and supporters! I really couldn’t do it without all of your love and support! I’m blessed and humbled by your love and kind words of encouragement! This has been a great beginning for this new year and I’m looking forward to many more adventures and lessons to be learned.

A post shared by  A F A A H L O O . 🇼🇸🇺🇸 (@afa.ahloo) on

Again, Afa credited his mother for inspiring him to reach these ambitious goals.

"Today reminded me of a conversation that I had with my late mom," he wrote about The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange. "We were watching the Samoan rugby team (Manu Samoa) play at the World Cup and I had commented on how I wished I could represent my country in a capacity such as the Rugby World Cup. My mom gracefully remarked and said, 'Son, you don’t need to be great at any sports to represent your country. Your God-given talents can take you to places like this. You can represent your country by using what God gave you. Your talents.' Today, that counsel came true! She was right (as always) all along."

In addition to his mother, his Heavenly Father, and his faith, Afa often credits his wife and family for his current success. Afa is the proud father of one daughter and calls his wife, Laura Marie, his "number one supporter" and the "best person for me."

Afa's love for his family and his faith shines through in all he does, even while competing in Project Runway.

Lead image from afaahloo.com
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