Page 8 - MidWeek Kauai - Sep 28, 2022
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Small-town Boy Hits The Big Time In Fashion World
was finally showtime. Ka- mohoalii and his entourage of models, musical perform- ers and cultural practitioners brought local fashion to a global stage — Hawaiian style. Part of the show’s al- lure was Kamohoalii’s com- mitment to ensuring the au- dience, which was filled with some of the industry’s best, knew the history behind the clothes they were seeing in front of them.
Hawai‘i Fashion Showcase that premiered last year. They asked if he was interested in strutting his stuff on the New York catwalk in four weeks’ time, to which Kamohoalii, of course, responded with an enthusiastic yes. Though, when reality set in after the call, he exclaimed, “Wait, I don’t have any clothes!”
fter a month of plan- ning, fundraising and rehearsing, it
think it’s really horrible linen. I want them to know that this bark grew in my backyard.”
about my communi- ty,” he shares. “It’s about coming to- gether, pulling
our resources
and making it
happen. We’re
taking aspiring
talent, cultural
practitioners and
a whole array of community members
as our models — and none of them fit the mold. When I had to submit my lookbook to Paris Fashion Week, their response was, ‘None of them fit the standard of Paris Fash- ion Week.’ I was like, ‘Hmm, was that a question, a state- ment, or a negative or posi- tive remark?’ All I wrote back was: ‘Yes. And that’s the way we like it.’
    Micah Kamohoalii’s vision for his brand was born out of a slightly awkward situation. During his college years, he saved all of his money to buy a designer aloha shirt. Feeling like the coolest person on the planet, he showed up at a party donning his new attire — only to find 10 other guys were
wearing the same thing.
“We looked like the house band,” Kamohoalii says with
a laugh.
Learning from that experience, Kamohoalii only releases
about 60 pieces of the same style and color at a time, with about 250 looks in total. Each print channels Hawaiian cul- ture in some way, with the company’s foundation lying in “preserving our past and perpetuating it for the future,”to hear Kamohoalii tell it.
“All of the (prints) connect us to the origin of who we are, but it also becomes a spiritual totem for us. When we wear our lightning pattern design, we understand that this comes from the mountains — how do you not feel empowered?
“We are empowering ourselves spiritually, physically and mentally by wearing clothing that is meaningful and purposeful and empowers us throughout the day. We wear clothing that recounts our history and tells our story.”
Dezigns by Kamohoalii has locations in Pearlridge Center (98-1005 Moanalua Road) and Windward Mall (46-056 Kamehameha Hwy.). For more information, visit
       Dezigns That Tell
  “I told my cousin who’s the chief operating officer, and he said, ‘Don’t worry. I got it.’ I was like, ‘What are you go- ing to do? You don’t sew,’” recalls Kamohoalii with a joking tone. “He called ev- erybody in our town and my halau — I’m also a kumu hula — and said, ‘Hey, kumu got invited to New York Fashion Week. I need you to bring back all the clothes you just bought from us. We need to use it and we’ll bring it back to you.’ Everybody came through — and that’s com- munity for you.
The heartfelt commentary, along with a surprise perfor- mance by the final models who broke out into a hula be- fore leaving the stage, made the crowd, which, according to Kamohoalii, typically snaps their fingers to applaud so as to not disrupt the show, go wild.
“At New York Fashion Week, when people asked me, ‘So, how did you choose this collection?’ I couldn’t tell them that I used whatever I could get my hands on,” he says with his ever-present smile.
The showcase landed Ka- mohoalii in publications such as Vanity Fair, Vogue, The New York Times and Forbes, to name a few, and, soon af- ter, officials from European fashion weeks were on the other line.
“I’ m showing what Ha- wai‘i can bring to the table — and that’s beauty in every shape and size. You can see all of our beauty from top to bottom and all of our races are mixed together. If I was trying to do Paris, I would get Paris models. I’m not trying to do Paris, I’m trying to do Hawai‘i in Paris.”
“I tell people I’ m part of the fabric creators of the world. That’s a rare breed because most people go to the store and buy the fabric,” says Kamohoalii, adding that kapa-making runs deep in his family lineage. “I come from the people who fabricated the fabric — the ones who made the materials that were then turned into fashion. I told them that I had to be able to present this on stage because this is the origin of what Fashion Week is.
“It sounded like a football game,” says Kamohoalii, not- ing that a lot of people were moved to tears. “They were screaming and yelling and you could tell that people threw the towel in with the snapping because it wasn’t doing it justice.”
“I need to explain what they’ll see so they can under- stand what they’ll see. I don’t want them to see kapa and
Currently, Kamohoalii is at Milan Fashion Week, after just wrapping London Fash- ion Week and before he takes the train to conclude at Paris Fashion Week.
The shows will be differ- ent in each city, though they will all meld what’s tradi- tional with what’s modern. In London, Kamohoalii pays homage to the feathers worn by Hawaiian royalty; in Mi- lan, he will demonstrate kapa creation; and in Paris, it’s all about lau hala and other items that are finely woven.
“This has always been
  for it to touch you.
“I hope that we at least
liʻi, Kainani Kahaunaele and Jeff Peterson, the musical performances will honor the Hawaiian monarchy and its time spent in Europe.
 Whether in New York, Paris or London, Kamohoalii stresses the importance of community. “I’m showing what Hawai‘i can bring to the table — and that’s beauty in every shape and size,” he says. PHOTOS COURTESY HOUSE OF KAMOHOALII
Along with the three fash- ion shows, Kamohoalii will also be putting on three con- certs in each of the major cities with his reason simply being “because I’m crazy like that.” Featuring Amy Hānaia-
“I know there’s a language barrier when we hit France and Italy, but you don’t have to speak our language to un- derstand a Hawaiian heart,” shares Kamohoalii. “Our culture is so moving; it’s the drum beat, it’s emotion- al. You don’t have to speak the same language to know something is powerful and
leave the impression on these countries that there’s a connection between people, place, honoring your history and to have respect and love for everything that’s around you. We’re teaching Hawai- ian values to the world and sharing our aloha.”
Kamohoalii has come a long way — literally and metaphorically — from the small town that he loves so dearly. He may have tem- porarily exchanged Hawai‘i Island’s country roads for the world’s premier runways, but, no matter where life takes him, he’ ll always be a proud Waimea boy — and his community will be right there beside him.

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