MAMo show takes flight
Fashion has been a big part of Hawaiian Airlines since 1943, and one of the events marking the company’s 85th anniversary is a fashion show of all its flight attendant uniforms from past to present.
The event will open the MAMo (Maoli Arts Month Org.) Wearable Arts’ fashion show during Hawai‘i Fashion Month at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.
MAMo’s Wearable Arts Show will feature the designs and collaborations of seven native Hawaiian artists. Not a conventional runway show, the MAMo showcase always proves fun and exciting, integrating several forms of Native Hawaiian artistic expression, such as bamboo printing, feather and shell work, kapa and lauhala weaving, and body art, coupled with traditional Hawaiian chanting and dancing.
The featured artists are weaver and fiber artist Marques Marzan, designer Puamana Crabbe, jewelry designer Lufi Luteru, lauhala weaver Keoua Nelson,
designer Nita Pilago of Wahine Toa Designs, tattoo artist Keone Nunes, and feather artist Mele Kahalepuna-Wong.
Here are some of the Hawaiian Airlines uniform details:
» In the beginning the airline flew without flight attendants. The first flight in 1929 was from Honolulu to Hilo and took three hours and 15 minutes on an eight-passenger Sikorsky S-38 amphibian airplane.
» The first “air hostesses” joined the crew in 1943, and their uniform was a war-era fitted gray skirt and jacket ensemble topped off with a military-style cap and black stripe on the sleeve.
» The designs became bolder and more colorful in the 1960s in response to the jet-set glamour of the burgeoning tourist industry, which at that time was the domain of the elite.
“All the flight attendants we talked to who were flying then said it was a very glamorous and prestigious profession, and dress was a part of that,” said Debbie Nakanelua-Richards, director of community relations at Hawaiian Airlines. “The passengers dressed up, so the crews had to look just as good or better. The airline wanted to project an image of moving forward.”
The fashion always reflected what was happening on a national scale. In 1968, flower power reigned and flight attendants wore floral-print minis in a blue-and-yellow pattern that was matched to the formality of yellow hosiery.
Grooming was meticulous and all elements were considered, down to jewelry and footwear. To go with the flower power dress, David Evins of Evins Shoe Co. of New York designed yellow shoes in a basket weave pattern accented with a stylized plumeria flower ornament on the toe of each shoe.
The uniforms were refreshed or replaced every four to five years. In 1971, San Francisco designer Richard Tam, whose creations were sold at Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman, was tapped to create a chic tea-time ensemble of a soft nylon knit dress with high front slit that revealed hot pants underneath. It was accessorized with a matching headscarf, a mix of low-heeled pumps, and gladiator and go-go boots, all in white, and a gold-metal fish pendant that would be called a statement necklace today. I thought it was the coolest uniform.
In 1974, Malia International became the first local company to design the airline’s uniforms, creating glamorous long and short dresses in polyester knits. Malia created three collections for the airline, including those incorporating the long-running Sky print of hibiscus red, bright orchid and white to match Hawaiian Airlines classic wahine logo. The uniform will be familiar to those who flew between 1979 and 1988.
Then, as now, uniform selection is a matter of fashion and functionality, Nakanelua-Richards said. When planes are changed, uniforms may have to be adjusted to take higher carry-on bins into account, which require freedom of movement and a longer skirt.
Dress is also more formal on international flights, to take other countries' fashion into account. The current uniform of a Pacific Blue aloha shirt can be dressed up with a more structured skirt, jacket and pant.
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.