CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The "super cute" designs of Mechakawa Vintage include the skirt-turned-dress and muumuu turned into a mod mini by Aly Ishikuni, left, and Emma Wright, who try out their best "mecha kawaii" poses. CLICK FOR LARGE
Mechakawa finds more life left in old muus
Two young designers give vintage Hawaiian wear a fresh look with some nips, tucks and embellishments
Makeovers aren't just for people.
Those muumuus in the back of your mom's closet might look like little more than tired floral sacks destined for a thrift shop, but in the hands of Aly Ishikuni and Emma Wright, they're simply waiting to be loved again, and sometimes only a minor transformation is needed to find them a second home.
While past generations associate thrift shopping with an "ew" factor, it's just a way of life to 20-somethings like Ishikuni and Wright, the two designers behind Mechakawa Vintage. Mechakawa is short for "mecha kawaii," or "super cute," in Japanese.
Like good recyclers, the two friends were independently selling their unneeded belongings on eBay before starting, a year ago, to rehab thrift-shop finds and market those as well. Never mind that neither had any sewing experience at the time.
"It took us two weeks to sew three dresses," said Wright, showing their first creation, a formerly unwanted red muumuu that had been transformed into a desirable minidress after it was shortened and its sleeves were removed.
"The fabrics really stand out, but a lot of the muumuus are really big. They just need to be taken in for a girlie feel," she said. "A lot of muumuus have a Victorian feel. We'll add pockets, buttons and bows -- I love bows -- little things, to give them a mod '60s, Twiggy-ish feel. She's our fashion icon."
"We give them an edge," said Ishikuni.
It's paid off in their eBay sales across the nation, as well as Canada, England and Australia.
"It's cool to think people in Europe are wearing something we made," said Wright.
They'll be showing about 10 pieces during the Urban Pacific fashion event tomorrow night at Next Door, and selling them for $20 to $30. Their garments typically sell for $35 to $75 on eBay.
Having gotten a taste for designing and marketing their creations, they've had second thoughts about their long-range goals. Wright is studying history at Leeward Community College but now plans to concentrate on the history of fashion and costume, if it will help them open a Mechakawa boutique someday.
Ishikuni, who's studying business management at Kapiolani Community College while performing in the indie-rock band Explore, admits to being a little overwhelmed by how fashion has unexpectedly taken over part of her life.
"I'm so busy. I have school, I have my band. I want to do everything. When I have time I sew."
"I'd rather sew than do homework," said Wright.
One thing they're both certain about is that they'll be signing up for more sewing classes.