Nuuanu Avenue turns into a fashion frenzy
IT'S BEEN said by people who have dropped in from the mainland that Hawaii seems to have more artists per capita than most American cities.
Not that we're counting, but certainly if you look around, everyone seems to be a visual or performing artist or craftsperson, even if it's not their primary occupation. Something about working two or three jobs as a matter of survival forces us to tap into every ounce of creativity we have.
NUUANU FACES UP
Fresh F.A.C.E. of Nuuanu
Street festival with fashion shows, art, cuisine and entertainment:
Time: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday
Place: Downtown/ Chinatown Art District, with fashion runway from Pauahi to Hotel streets
The number of fashion designers has been low in comparison, but the rise of the Style network and arrival of "Project Runway" has fueled many a tulle and organza dream.
If there's any doubt about that, show up Saturday for the inaugural "Fresh F.A.C.E. of Nuuanu," an all-day event that will turn Nuuanu Avenue into a catwalk from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with retailer and designer fashion shows and a fashion competition featuring more than 50 dreamers and 150 garments.
The F.A.C.E. stands for fashion, art, cuisine and entertainment, in celebration of National Arts & Humanities Month, and there will also be 25 art tents plus stages featuring entertainment by Cathy Foy, Jordan Segundo, Cirque Hawaii, Hawaii Opera Theatre and more. Held in conjunction with Second Saturday, the event will include area galleries offering more special events and exhibitions.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
A series of fashion sketches and photos were submitted by would-be designers, from which 50 designers were chosen to compete in the Fresh F.A.C.E. of Nuuanu contest. CLICK FOR LARGE
AFTER several years of dreaming of a Honolulu Fashion Week, designer Takeo is staging the fashion competition as a first step, with the help of Louis Pohl Gallery owner Sandy Pohl. As recently as five years ago, the idea would have seemed incongruous. Few would have used the words "Honolulu" and "fashionable" in the same sentence.
"Street fashion years ago was depressing to look at. Nothing, nothing, nothing," Takeo said. That has changed since renowned luxury and lifestyle boutiques have opened en masse, and media exposure and the prevalence of the cell-phone camera have opened eyes to the importance of image. Neophyte designers have been encouraged by the growing interest in fashion, which makes the decision to design clothing or accessories less of a career risk.
"This is the first time in Hawaii we will have so many designers together," said Takeo, who had to turn away many designers who approached him after the entry deadline had passed. "I'm amazed this many people came, ages 10 to 87. Their backgrounds are so different.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
INTO owner Alan Carrell, left, shared his designs with Takeo, who envisions the start of a Honolulu Fashion Week.
"The mother of the 10-year-old (Joyce Furuya) told me, 'Now my daughter can be Tiger Woods (of fashion),' and I'm happy if we can promote local designers. If somebody's good, I want to promote in future fashion shows, and get their help designing gowns for Miss USA."
DESIGNS will be entered in three categories -- Hawaiian, day and evening wear. Competitors run the gamut from student designers, to visual artists, to business professionals who might have been designers if the opportunity had been open to them years ago.
Participants filed into a photo studio Saturday to share their stories on videotape to be screened on OC16 following the event. If any of them actually want to win the cash prize, they're not admitting so. Most came out for the thrill of being part of a ground-breaking event.
ADDIE CABJUAN of Zaney's has been working in the food industry for seven years, but viewed F.A.C.E. as an opportunity to try her hand at design.
She's a self-professed, casual "T-shirt queen" with an interest in formal wear, although she hasn't picked up needle and thread since she was a child.
"My friends were like, 'What, you're designing now?' You know, there's always a part of you, inside, that wants to try something different."
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Student designer Dan Weaver, left, shared his sketch book with Takeo while Addie Cabjuan, background, prepared to be interviewed for an OC16 program about the Fresh F.A.C.E. of Nuuanu.
Interestingly, she says her designs are inspired by the shapes of chopped vegetables. "Semi-circles, points and squares, and stuff.
"Working at a restaurant I see all these artists and designers come in, so I just wanted to try it for fun," she said. "Part of it is a reality check for me, to see if I can actually do it, but it's a lot of work, so I think I'll hang up my pencil after this.
"There's so many obstacles," she said, talking about alterations that had to be made when her first model dropped out and the second had a different body type.
"I thought, 'Oh my God, is this what Takeo goes through?' It's so much work and I'm just making one dress."
For the competition, she'll be showing an Asian-inspired empire-waist gown of brocade with a jeweled neckline.
ALLAN CARRELL is an entrepreneur-about-town, whom interior designers know as a manufacturer's rep and Nuuanuites know as the owner of the body-and-home furnishings boutique INTO. But few know he was once a student of fashion at Baylor University and later, the Dallas International Apparel Mart.
"It's always been something I wanted to do, but in the early days -- I'm 40 now -- my focus wasn't as strong. I'm at a time in my life when it's do it or don't do it."
He's entered in all three categories, but won't be hurt if his designs don't go over well. "You gotta keep going no matter what. There will always be people who will try to bring you down. People who are successful, they all have stories of being told, 'Get out of the industry,' or 'What were you thinking?'
"I always try to keep it positive, keep people ambitious, and I feel this is very important for the community."
EXPLORING the fashion realm is a logical step for many artists facing the economic reality that fashion is a mass medium that outsells gallery art any day.
Artist Roy Venters, who runs a self-named studio and gallery on Nuuanu, entered the competition as a way of encouraging the growth of more arts-oriented festivals in the Downtown/Chinatown Arts District.
He said he tends to focus his creativity on home decor, designing lamps, furniture, paper floors and glass hearts, "but when you get into the real world, you have to go back and forth between things you enjoy doing that will also pay the bills."
Fashion is one thing people are willing to pay for, and he's found a niche in creating original designs for plus-size and drag-queen pageants, which are a rich source of inspiration.
"There's a lot of innovation that comes out of a boy becoming a girl, or a boy's vision of what a girl is," he said.
PHOTO COURTESY OF TAKEO
Erin Morrison was among the designers who showed up for a Saturday videotaping session to take about her work.
His creation, made of scarves and table runners, is entered in the evening category, he said, "because I'm interested in elegance and not so much the day thing. It's the outrageous version of things I'm going to have in the gallery for the holidays."
MICHELE HENRY, also a Nuuanu denizen, opened Tea at 1024 as a combination tea room and fashion emporium to share her original designs, but the tea room took on a life of it's own and she said, "I haven't been designing for four years.
"I thought this was a great opportunity to get back into designing. I thought it would be fun and something different from what I normally do."
Known for creating traditional holokus and holomuus, she said she's come up with what she describes as a punky "urban wedding" holomuu, made from muslin that's been washed and frayed, then covered with graffiti.
"Designing is something I've been wanting to get back to for a while. I like the idea of creating without the pressure of coming out with "X" number of pieces to sell. Come to the shop and what you see is what you get."
VENTER'S SAID he's been inspired by the turnout of young designers.
"They're coming up with more edgy stuff. They're not at all afraid of failure. They don't know that they might be embarrassed," he said. "(It's only) when you get older that you realize criticisms can come down. You just get tired of it.
"Designers always keep an eye on club kids and drag queens because, basically, they just don't give a damn about what's successful. When you look at some of their things, you can't wash them because they're put together with pins and glue. They just want to get their ideas out there, and I love looking at that."
Takeo echoed his sentiments, saying, "The most interesting thing is what the students are doing, so different.
"They have a dream of improving themselves. When I see them, I realize I'm seeing myself when I was their age, looking at (what) my own future (might be). Same thing. It's like déjà vu, and I'm happy if we can give hope and opportunity to someone who never had that before."
AMONG the newcomers are FIDM graduate Erin Morrison and University of Hawaii student Dan Weaver.
Morrison worked as a pattern-making and design assistant, and free-lance designer in L.A. before moving back to Hawaii. She entered the competition to help promote art and fashion in Hawaii. "I wanted to challenge myself beyond creating something I would make for myself to wear to work."
As a designer, she's interested in details, but knowing her strengths and acknowledging the many career paths available within the industry, she said, "I consider myself more of a pattern-maker than designer. I like the technical side of fashion, the hands-on portion. I don't want to be The Designer all the time."
Weaver, who's been working on his CUTNSEWN series of T-shirts and sweatshirts, said F.A.C.E. is "an opportunity to show another facet of what I do. I can drape and make dresses. I have a concept of what I'd like to see a girl wearing, and my dresses would work with other pieces in their wardrobe. Mostly, I feed off of fabric, thread and color."
He's adept at creating garments for guys as well, and is working on building his portfolio with an eye on entering "Project Runway" next year.
"It's definitely something I'm waiting on," he said. "I'm feeling everything out. My circumstances could change any minute. There's a lot to think about, and I'll only start to think about it after the fashion show."
He'll be busy that day, running between three showings of his garments for F.A.C.E., plus the Urban Pacific boutique and 5 p.m. fashion show (see Page D1) at Next Door.
But no one's working harder to make F.A.C.E. a success than Takeo. "I'm working day and night on this one. That's why sometimes I cannot sleep.
"Someone asked me, 'Are you making money on this?' and I said, 'No, zero dollars.' But the priority is different. It's important that everybody is working together because the fashion industry is weak here, but we have good designers and we have to promote ourselves."