BY NADINE KAM / firstname.lastname@example.org
Sean Kelly may have won “Project Runway” Season 13, but Hawaii designer Kini Zamora set himself up to be a winner over the long haul. The spring/summer 2015 collection he will show Nov. 7 builds on the black-and-white collection he showed during the TV design competition’s finale.
Inaugural fashion show with KD Hawaii pop-up shop
» Where: Hawai‘i Convention Center
» When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7
» Cost: Free
Full-Circle: A Dining and Fashion Experience
Featuring dinner, silent auction, and fashion by Kini Zamora, Ari South and Manuheali‘i
» Where: Stage restaurant, Honolulu Design Center, 1250 Kapiolani Blvd.
» When: 5:30 p.m. Nov. 19
» Cost: $100, $150, $200
» Info: email@example.com
Living in Hawaii, Zamora is well aware of the struggle most people have in making ends meet, so he is sensitive to the plight of those who want to look stylish while still making the rent and putting food on the table. Thus a black-and-white wardrobe also made sense to him from an economical perspective.
“They are timeless colors, and these are timeless pieces that people can wear for a long time,” Zamora said. “I’m not just thinking of one season, but pieces that can be carried over multiple collections and mixed and matched with future collections.”
He’s been working 15-hour days — that start at 3 a.m. alongside design partner Dean “Dinko” Satta — and the collection will be their first for their contemporary women’s ready-to-wear brand KINIandDINKO. During the Nov. 7 showcase they will also offer a pop-up shop offering Hawaiian-print apparel from their KD Hawaii line.
The two still cut and sew every garment themselves and dream of one day being able to afford having a retail store, workspace and extra hands.
Satta brings a valued second opinion, and Zamora now admits he should have listened to his partner more while working on his “Project Runway” finale collection.
“He kept saying I didn’t have enough sexiness,” Zamora said.
Of course, considering all the feedback he’s received in New York as well, he’s listening now, saying, “Sex sells, but for us it’s in a classy way.”
Kini Zamora was warned to change up the styling on his finale collection.
Being able to keep his eye on the big picture is what propelled Zamora to keep trying out for “Project Runway” over the course of five rejections. Season 13 marked his sixth audition, and he said that even if he hadn’t made it on this time, he would have kept trying or forever been left with the regret of “what if.”
“I wanted people to see what I could do, and to see that there is talent in Hawaii and that talent can come out of a garage. It’s not about where you are or how lavish your studio is. Talent can come from anywhere, and I’m glad the world got to see that,” Zamora said.
“I went in thinking this will help me in the future, and now people all around the world know who I am. I’m getting requests for wedding gowns all over the world. The support from everyone has been really positive, and it’s been rewarding to know people have been rooting for me.”
Zamora’s showing is the second time a Hawaii designer has made it into the top three. Ari (then competing as Andy) South reached the top three in Season 8, finishing behind winner Gretchen Jones and Mondo Guerra.
Another Hawaii designer and HCC alumnus, Jay Sario, made it into the top four in Season 7. Sario is on television again, competing in “Project Runway All-Stars” Season 4, premiering Thursday.
Zamora credited his performance to maturity.
“The first couple of times I auditioned, I wasn’t ready. This time, I knew I was ready,” he said.
PHOTO BY DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM
Kini Zamora, foreground, with his cousin Anuhea Patoc, who serves as his business and communication executive.
Zamora had been sewing since the age of 10, taught by his aunt Delilah Patoc, and made the commitment to fashion when he realized “I didn’t want to work for anyone anymore. Now I wake up wanting to do this.”
He honed his skills at HCC, learning draping and pattern making. While his fellow classmates put a required six garments on the runway during their 2005 senior show, Zamora created a 60-piece collection.
His prowess became a running commentary on “Project Runway” as Zamora often finished his pieces while most of the other designers will still puzzling over their designs.
“The reason I finished fast was because I wanted to get Tim’s (Gunn) opinion,” he said, referring to the show’s resident mentor.
Zamora left HCC to study at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology but stayed only a year after finding the Hawaii college had already given him all the technical skills he needed.
PHOTO BY DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM
Kini Zamora, right, works with his design partner, Dean "Dinko" Satta, in the garage of Zamora's parents' house in Kapolei.
Despite his speed at sewing, Zamora was slow to get noticed on the show, ending early challenges safely in the middle of the pack before forcing the judges to take notice with Episode 4’s suit challenge.
During Kini Zamora Day at HCC on Oct. 16, he told fans “I was tired of just being safe. I really wanted to push myself. I didn’t care whether I was on the top or bottom; I just wanted to get feedback from the judges.”
Converting a men’s suit into a structured dress with cutouts, judges Nina Garcia, Zac Posen and Heidi Klum were impressed. But they were torn between his structured look and Valentine’s boho maxi. In the end, Valentine, a repeat contestant from Season 11, was deemed the winner.
Fans of the show thought Zamora should have been the victor. In the “Rate the Runway” section on the show’s website, Valentine’s look won a low 2.7 rating versus Zamora’s 4.32. That set up another of the season’s threads, that Zamora — whose humility and affable manner quickly made him a fan favorite — was robbed.
Viewers appreciated his integrity in taking each slight and critique in stride, seeing each as constructive advice, rather than an insult.
Kini Zamora's final collection.
That audience sentiment continued building over subsequent weeks as Zamora continued to make the top two and three, never to hit the top spot. In Episode 6 he was robbed for real when, teamed with Kelly, who was working slowly on a pair of pants, Zamora felt compelled to create a top for Kelly’s look. The top is what clinched the win — for Kelly, who did not tell the judges that Zamora created it.
As with other incidents, Zamora took it in stride, harboring no anger or resentment.
“I don’t feel bad about it at all. He apologized right away. The thing is, we were partners so we were going to be judged together, and he had immunity, so if we lost, I would have been the one going home.”
Zamora’s first of three wins came with Episode 8’s rainway challenge for which he came up with an umbrella dress.
Like Hawaii’s contestants before him, Zamora didn’t seem to talk much on the show, but he said that wasn’t the case in reality.
“I actually talked a lot,” he said of being on set 18 hours a day and being pulled aside for hourlong interviews several times during the workday. “It’s just that if you’re not talking trash, they don’t want that.”
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage appears in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.