Thursday, August 11, 2005

Alyssa Fung, left, models an Interlud T-back dress and Emi Hart models a white Fashionista's Market lettuce tank and black Interlud pant in Chinatown Tuesday. The dress will be $94 (retail $120), the top $26 (retail $40), and pant $64 (retail $120).

Sisterly style

Coming up with the idea for Fashionista's Market was a no-brainer for Style Sisters Emi Hart and Alyssa Fung. The two veteran shoppers and real-life sisters just thought about everything they could possibly want out of a shopping experience, then plotted their first designer-sample sale event, Saturday and Sunday at Ocean Club, Restaurant Row.

Fashionista's Market

Bring your fashion sense for two days of extreme shopping:

» When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 13 and 14

» Place: Ocean Club

» Admission: $3 with RSVP, $7 for non-RSVP guests, to be donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation's Hawaii affiliate.

» RSVP: E-mail info@fashion-istasmarket.com by noon tomorrow

» Note: No purses or bags will be allowed in; only cash and credit cards accepted. Communal dressing room means wear your best underwear. First 50 through the doors both days will receive a Fashionista's Market goodie bag with samples from Sephora and a copy of Smart magazine.

"We thought about what it would be like, and it would have to have great clothes, good prices, alterations on the spot, and sometimes when I go shopping with friends, I think it would be so great if we could have a cocktail, maybe champagne," said Hart.

So have a mimosa on the girls when you get there, but don't go overboard on the cocktails if you want to hold on to your credit card. The sisters promise much temptation in the form of some of the hottest contemporary labels, plus their own Fashionista's Market label, with garments and accessories marked an average of 30 to 50 percent off retail -- and at best, 75 percent off.

That doesn't mean cheap. There's a difference between fashion fiends and bargain hunters, and this sample sale is for the former. So FrankieB jeans that retail for $140 to $220 will go for less than $100, and Diane Von Furstenberg dresses that sell for more than $300 will go for $100 to $140.

Other cherry-picked labels include Free People, Von Dutch, Miss Sixty, Lucky Brand Jeans, La Blanca swimwear, Earl Jeans, Juicy Couture, Citizens for Humanity, Seven For All Mankind and more.

"They're all brands that we personally love and think others are going to like," said Hart, who came up with the idea for the sale after returning from an L.A. trip two years ago, during which the sisters went shop happy.

"I always wanted to do something together," said Hart, a marketing and event planner for Ocean Club who helped create the popular Piranha Room event, as well as Russell Tanoue's recent "Angels on the Rock" party. She's witnessed increased style-consciousness among club-goers, but knows that Hawaii still lags behind Los Angeles and New York, if not by will, then by lack of money and access to certain brands. The sisters hope to help on both counts.

Juliet Lighter wears a Lucky Brand army jacket that will be $60 (retail $105) and Von Dutch mini skirt, $45 (retail $84).

"At the club you can always tell the girl who lives in New York or L.A.," said Fung, an aesthetician and makeup artist in her other life. "She just has the clothes no one else has. You'd say, 'That's nice. Where'd you get that?' and they say, 'Oh, New York.' "


The other dilemma for individuals who want to look good is the cost of designer threads.

"People in Hawaii are very price-point oriented because everybody's working two or three jobs," Hart said. "Everybody wants to look good for less money. Life is too short to have bad style."

EVEN AS THE Style Sisters make the work seem like fun, they said Hawaii retailers must contend with many logistical difficulties.

"It's a lot harder to run a business because you have to bring everything in," said Hart. "It's not like New York or L.A., where everything is there.

"It's a tough and stressful business because it's got a lot of sketchy people, and even though I'm the older one, Alyssa has become the negotiator," Hart said. "She's learned to play hardball with people."

Fung looks demure and has the dress style to match, describing it as girly, with attitude. "I was very timid. I don't like confrontation. I don't like to say the wrong thing to people, but I've had to be very strong. Otherwise people will try to walk all over you. Because we're young, people think we're stupid."

Jennifer Abreu wears a La Blanca swim top and Free People skirt.

"It's a scary industry but we've been lucky because we've also met a lot of people who have helped us, and friendships have started," Hart said. "It's not just business."

Hart is the more outgoing, reflected in her adventurous dress style. On the day we meet that includes a bright red Moroccan belt, 5 inches at its widest, worn with her sister's Lucky Jeans and a Diesel tank top. She bought the belt three years ago, pre-dating today's bigga mo' betta and ethnic trends.

"I'm more likely to commit a style faux pas," she said, which is problematic considering that the fashion set will be turning a critical eye on her wardrobe. "They'll be like, 'I'm gonna take advice from you? Look how you dress.' "

That's the downside of being a "Style Sister," knowing that others are just waiting to pass judgment. As a new mom, Hart said she'd grown accustomed to going without makeup, but now makes it a point to look presentable when she goes out, even if it just means throwing on a comfortable Juicy velour top to visit the nearest crab-leg buffet.

"Everywhere else has six degrees of separation. Here, we have one or two. Anywhere you go you're going to see someone you know; your ex-boyfriend, hey auntie!"

All going well, the sisters hope to stage quarterly events, with two in November and December in advance of holiday soirees.

And just as the inaugural event will benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, each event will have a fund-raising component.

"To us it's karma and it's important to give back to the community," said Hart. "We see our event as helping women, whether it's raising awareness of breast cancer, to being fashionable, to just having time for ourselves.

"To sacrifice everything they are for others, that is the plight of women, and if we can offer something that makes them feel good, that let's them shine hourly, that's great."

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