An Eye Toward Fashion

Vance Pascua, owner and designer of Ainofea, showcases his store’s products.

For the seventh year, Kaua‘i Fashion Weekend will shine the spotlight on the island’s finest designers June 22 at Kaua‘i Marriott Resort.

The space within Kaua‘i Marriott Resort’s Grand Ballroom will be transformed when the island’s fashion-forward creatives gather June 22 for the seventh annual Kaua‘i Fashion Weekend.

In addition to the best of the best in vogue, the Garden Isle’s signature style event features local entertainment, vendors and a VIP dinner, all highlighted by a stunning runway show that brings to the stage models and community leaders sporting fashions by local and international designers.

The idea for the show began back in 2012, when president and co-founder Marynel Valenzuela had a rather inauspicious dinner conversation with longtime friend, international designer Sha Ali Ahmad of New Delhi-based Ahmad Couture.

“Every time (Ahmad visits), I bring him to all my board meetings. I serve on so many boards and after awhile for him it went from b-o-a-r-d to b-o-r-e-d,” laughs Valenzuela. “Finally, (Ahmad) says, let’s come up with something (different). Is there a fashion week on Kaua‘i?”

At that time, Valenzuela couldn’t think of a major fashion event on the island.

Sha Ali Ahmad, Jo Palalay, Edie Ignacio Neumiller, Emily Manuel and Vance Pascua pose in Ainofea’s Lihu‘e shop.

“We didn’t even have Hawai‘i Fashion Month,” she recalls. “That started in 2014.”

Thus was born the idea to “inspire, showcase and celebrate the creativity of Kaua‘i,” and Kaua‘i Fashion Weekend got its start. Together, the two friends decided to try their hand at producing a red carpet-style fashion show for the island.

“We feel that Kaua’i is a special island with talented and creative individuals,” says Valenzuela. “Some say we don’t have much to offer here and nowhere to go as far as nightlife is concerned; we are too laid back.

“Why not create one event where we can include everyone of all ages to celebrate and showcase our creative talents and energies from Kaua’i, and inspire others to create and share their designs with our community?”

Now in it’s seventh iteration, the event annually showcases a rotation of local designers and a variety of international ones, as well. This year’s runway show will feature everything from island style, business attire and eveningwear, to high-fashion haute couture from international designers Ahmad Couture and Louda Larrain, who is a former designer with Chanel now based on Kaua‘i.

In addition, there will be a total of seven local designers, including up-and-coming brands Silk & Cotton, Dezignz by Deziray and Leiko Kaua‘i. The three will present their works collectively under a runway segment themed “Upcycling.”

According to Valenzuela, the trio is finding an innovative approach to fashion as they take old or vintage materials and re-imagine them into completely new designs.

“For instance,” says Valenzuela, “Silk & Cotton uses bedsheets that are dyed and recreated to form (wearable) fashionable pieces.”

Other participating island designers include Definitely Baba, Kai Kini Bikini, Ainofea and Tropical Tantrum.

In addition, The Shops at Kukui‘ula will sponsor this year’s “Women Community Walk” segment of the runway show, which features fashionable attire modeled by women leaders from the community.

Valenzuela is proud that the runway show features such diversity.

“All shapes, sizes, forms and ages,” she says.

The “distinguished gentleman” portion of the show will also include community and business leaders, all of whom are considered sponsor models. Basically, says Valenzuela, Ahmad Couture custom designs a suit for each of the men to wear on the runway, and the sponsor models then purchase their custom suits after the show.

Hosts for the event are news anchors Justin Cruz of KHON2 and Ashley Nagaoka of Hawai‘i News Now, who will be joined by Kaua‘i’s own Lexi Jones. Other celebrity guests include singer/actress Elizabeth Elias of Nickelodeon fame.

For Valenzuela and Ahmad, it is important to acknowledge the community effort that goes into creating this event every year.

“Everyone plays a huge part in this production,” Valenzuela says. “The work is never easy. There are so many sleepless nights as we come close to the actual preparation of the event.”

The stunning end result is always worth the effort, too.

“We are trying to help each other to stay in business through the collaborations with everyone,” she continues. “We will continue to focus on producing an event for everyone to celebrate and enjoy as well as create a destination on Kaua‘i. We want to inspire and strengthen small businesses to build one another through this event.”

KFW Facts

Registration for Kaua‘i Fashion Weekend begins at 5:30 p.m. June 22 at Kaua‘i Marriott Resort, and doors open at 6 p.m. The VIP dinner begins at 6:30 p.m., with the fashion show to follow at 7:30 p.m. Vendor booths open as early as 11 a.m.

Show tickets are $40 in advance or $50 at the door. VIP dinner and show tickets are available as pre-sale only and will not available at the door.

Tickets are available at eventbrite.com. For more information, visit kauaifashionweekend.com.