Haute Kauai

Stephanie Steuri, reigning Miss Hawaii, walks down the runway at last year's Kauai Fashion Weekend in one of Sha Ali Ahmad's designs. Photo courtesy of Patrick Kelley Worldwide photography

Stephanie Steuri, reigning Miss Hawaii, walks down the runway at last year’s Kauai Fashion Weekend in one of Sha Ali Ahmad’s designs. Photo courtesy of Patrick Kelley Worldwide photography

Talented local designers abound, and Kauai Fashion Week is putting them in the spotlight this weekend.

“We want to put Kauai on the map,” says Juno Ann Apalla, Kauai Fashion Weekend chairwoman.

On Saturday (April 4), the third annual Kauai Fashion Weekend will grace Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club. The fashion show includes dinner and will feature the latest collections from local clothing and jewelry designers.

“Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it’s harder to have your voice heard louder and your colors brighter than the rest of the world,” says Apalla.

The runway is an avenue to introduce designers to the community and also a chance to inspire them to grow and dream even bigger.

“We’re not only showcasing what happens on Kauai or the fashion that we make here, we want to be inspired about what they can do in New York and Europe,” explains Marynel Valenzuela, one of the founders of Kauai Fashion Week.

Local fashionistas, including couture clothing designer Louda Larrain, Taryn Rodighiero of KaiKini Bikinis and Sandi O’Shaughnessy of Grasshopper and Cricket, are ready to exhibit their work this weekend and potentially help bring more fashion industry awareness to the island.

“We want to keep the economy turning, the wheels turning, and we want it to be on Kauai,” says Apalla.

People rarely think of Kauai when they consider fashion, but organizers of Kauai Fashion Weekend want to change that.

“I see what it could be and I believe in that, and therefore that’s what makes me excited about this event,” says Apalla’s sister Nannie, who also is on the event committee. She would like to see more local artists take advantage of the island’s natural inspiration.

“I see a lot of people who come here for a while and take it back with them, and make money in fashion and make big bucks,” she says. “We should be able to benefit from that instead.”

Juno loves hearing Nannie say this as, for quite some time, she’s been trying to convince her to stay on the island to help encourage its growth in fashion. She wholeheartedly believes more opportunities like this can be created for younger designers, who all too often feel like they have to leave the island to pursue their interests.

“Coming home was a choice because of passion and a gut instinct that something great is going to happen here on Kauai,” says Juno, regarding why she chose to move back to her native home from Oregon, where she had attended college and later worked.

Nannie also is looking forward to being back on island for an event of this caliber after spending time studying in Germany.

“It’s a way to get young adults involved in a project on the island that we’re excited about. I feel like, with this event and what we’re putting together, it’s something to present to them — like an invitation to come share your talents with us and see what you can create,” she notes, and adds that the show has been a chance for her marketing skills to shine, as well.

Giving people these kinds of opportunities is one reason Valenzuela decided in 2013 to bring the show to the island. With the help of her friend, designer Sha Ali Ahmad, who originally came up with the idea and will present his pieces this year, they were able to create the inaugural Kauai Fashion Weekend in just a short period of time.

“It happened so fast,” she says.

And it’s been going strong ever since. The first show drew an audience of more than 200. Last year, nearly 400 attended, and this year they expect even more.

“The amount we do for volunteer work is massive on this island,” says Valenzuela, “and it’s what makes any event successful.”

And the work is well worth the time. “I like the spirit of collaboration and the spirit of everybody saying, ‘Yes I can do it, I am doing it and I did it,'” says Juno, who has been working day and night with her colleagues to pull the show together.

“I do believe that, if we were to have any kind of change, paradigm shift or any kind of revolution, let it not be through war but through art and expression, and coming together as community members,” she adds.

Visit kauaifashionweek.com for tickets and for more information.