Fashion Tribe

It's official: Hawai'i Fashion Month begins

October 3rd, 2013


Models show the zero-waste, natural fiber creations of Japan textile artist Akihiko Izukura at the launch of Hawai'i Fashion Month, with hair and makeup by Paul Brown.Nadine Kam photos

Well, it's finally happened! After more than a year of talk, planning and anticipation, the inaugural Hawai'i Fashion Month (HFM) debuted Oct. 1 with a kick-off party featuring food, music by Taimane, the Pushovers and DJ Toma, clothing displays and a fashion show by textile artist Akihiko Izukura, in a soon-to-be-developed retail space below TJ Maxx.

For the longest time, the fashion community was on its own—many little islands as far as marketing and promotion of individual brands. This time around, the monthlong event highlighting Hawaii fashion is a community-driven project initiated by the Hawaii Fashion Incubator (Hifi), with the support of the state's Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT). A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will benefit YWCA’s Dress for Success program.

In proclaiming October as Hawai'i Fashion Month, Gov. Neil Abercrombie noted that Hawaii's fashion industry already generates more than $750 million in annual sales, $20.4 million in tax revenues and 3,630 jobs. He aims to make it a billion-dollar industry that showcases Hawaii's diversity and local design and manufacturing talent, and has been true to his word in supporting the industry since taking office.

In a press statement last month, he said, “Hawai'i Fashion Month will also build our strength as an international retail destination while creating jobs and keeping hard-earned dollars in Hawaii. It’s another opportunity to ‘Buy Aloha, Give Local.’ ”

hfm runway

Looks from Akihiko Izukura's runway show.

Unfortunately, though the launch party was attended by a who's who of industry insiders, only a handful of party-goers—all who undoubtedly wanted to look their best for the special occasion—actually dressed local, missing the point of an event intended to celebrate Hawaii fashion. That was a disappointment and an indication that, even though I have watched Hawaii fashion come a long way in the 20-plus years I've been covering the industry as its biggest cheerleader, there is still a long way to go in making the clothing desirable for every occasion. (I wore Gillia by Saori Santos, and followed up the next day at OUTFIT with Tori Richard.)

And, as much as I love the work of Izukura—I now have three of his garments—he is from Japan, and there was no other local designer show on opening night, also surprising for an event to celebrate local fashion.

Let's try to do better at 6 p.m. Oct. 4, when the Hawai'i State Art Museum plays host to a Bridal & Formalwear Fashion Show of local designers, and "The Way We Wear" exhibition, where the dress code is black tie/evening.


Hifi co-founders Toby Portner (wearing Ease Collection at left) and Melissa White, right, with Ward Centers' senior marketing manager Katie Ka'anapu, and Sen. Will Espero, also a proponent for Hawaii fashion, wearing Sig Zane.

Non-flash video


Photographer Travis Okimoto with artist Melissa Rivera, who created the runway backdrop. This was one of the first times anyone has seen Melissa in a dress, so we were all so excited about it!


Among the guests, from left, were Holden Lau, Emma Wo, Freshionable founder Jenny Cao-Wu and her husband Mike Wu.


From left, Royal Hawaiian Center's Helene "Sam" Shenkus with Nani Hirosane and her husband David Hanus, who have a baby on the way. Do you know the genesis of Sam's nickname? Apparently, she had a college roommate who took to calling her Sam because she couldn't remember her name. And it stuck.


Trio of designers, from left, Vanessa Perez of Henry Hats, Sherry Holt and Denyse Ray of Ease Collection. Sherry was happy to connect with Dale Hope, as part of a generation of designers and companies, such as Tori Richard and Surf Line Hawaii, that ignited a national wave of Hawaii mania throughout the fashion world in the 1970s with their prints. She created the mesh-topped dress she's wearing, for Spring 2014.


Sen. Will Espero in a Sig Zane shirt, with Lyra Johnson, left, and Amanda Stevens of Dream On Consulting and a member of the HFM Steering Committee.


Akihiko Izukura's models walk through the exhibition space after the runway show.


Bree Dallwitz, left, in a creation from Mu'umu'u Heaven, with Andrea Lum. They're showing a design created by Randy Leano, a self-taught former "Project Runway: Philippines" finalist who decided to formalize his fashion education by enrolling in Honolulu Community College's Fashion Technology program.


Jason Dow and M33Ms Emiko Miyazawa, right, were among the jewelry designers in the crowd, with Rickie Fujinami.


Kidswear designer Natasha Li with her husband, Paul Quintiliani, Senior Director Commercial Real Estate Division for Kamnehameha Schools.

hfm reyn
A Reyn Spooner display.


Display from Hilo Hattie, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The company, along with 'Iolani Sportswear—celebrating its 60th anniversary with an event Oct. 10—will give special presentations at the Governor's Fashion Awards Oct. 30 at the Modern Hono­lulu. Advance tickets for the awards ceremony are $100 through Oct. 8 at

hfm jms

A Jams World display.


Photo ops everywhere.


Food for the event came from Kaka‘ako Kitchen, REAL a gastropub, and Gourmet Events Hawaii, with drinks from Island Distillers, Ulupalakua Vineyards, and Mehana Brewing Co.

3 Responses to “It's official: Hawai'i Fashion Month begins”

  1. Melissa White:

    Mahalo Nadine! We're so glad you could join us for this event. Loved my locally designed dress by recent UH Grad Jenna Sato!

  2. Nadine Kam:

    Great dress, wish I'd had time to have something made, but I was out of town most of September. Was hoping to find raw silk of caliber of Mr. Izukura's work while I was in Thailand, to bring back to one of the designers to work with, but couldn't find.

  3. Fashion Tribe | HFM: A celebration of ‘Fashion as Art’ at HiSAM | Fashion Tribe | | Honolulu, Hawaii:

    [...] More of HFM: [...]

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