DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Designs from Fashion Room Madonna, featuring the work of founder Mitsuko Yamauchi and her daughter, Kanna, will be featured during the Hui Makaala Fashion Show Sunday. Here, Kellie Peterson models one of Kanna's designs.
From Okinawa to Paris and back
A journey to fashion's epicenter led Mitsuko Yamauchi on her own crusade to bring Okinawan traditions and contemporary style to the world
For one of the Ryukyu Islands' most promising young designers, the Okinawan government was willing to foot the bill for the study of haute couture in Paris 36 years ago.
Hui Makaala fashion show
» Place: Sheraton Waikiki Hotel
» Time: 1 p.m. Sunday, with boutique sales and silent auction from 9 a.m. and lunch at noon
» Tickets: $60
» Call: 395-7229
Mitsuko Yamauchi returned the favor by spreading the word about Okinawan costume traditions and contemporary style around the world.
Rather than stay in Paris, one of world's major fashion centers, Yamauchi said through an interpreter, "I wanted to go home. I found what I had to do and I learned so many things, I wanted to go back home and put my ideas into practice."
Among those ideas was wedding the traditional Okinawan "bingata," or natural-dye textiles, with contemporary fashion.
"In Okinawa before, there was just kimono style," she explained, and bingata was used primarily to make kimono, pouches and purses.
While in Paris, she learned to drape and fit garments, a technique that allowed garments to flow with the body rather than stand away from it, enabling her to shape the stiff bingata fabric for everyday, more Western-style clothing.
Even more exciting, her ideas were embraced not only at home, but abroad, attributed in part to her wonderful use of color and hand-painting. It didn't hurt that her husband is an artist, and her son-in-law is a textile designer.
Yamauchi, founder of Fashion Room Madonna, is one of the featured designers marking the 60th anniversary of Hui Makaala, a nonprofit scholarship organization that has hosted a fundraising fashion show for 38 years. The show also will feature the work of Yamauchi's daughter Kanna, who heads the Young Culture Division in her mother's company, as well as designs by Jeanie Chun of Jacqueline de Michel of Honolulu.
Linda Taira, a former television journalist and Hui Makaala Scholarship recipient currently working as the deputy director/senior manager at Boeing Co., returns to emcee.
Yamauchi has been featured in fashion shows from Hong Kong to Los Angeles and London, but this will be her first in Hawaii, though she started visiting the islands 20 years ago. Her mission continues to be informing others about Okinawan textile traditions. She said she's excited about showing here "because Hawaii has the same feeling as Okinawa."
To mark the occasion, she's bringing a line of Hawaiian wear described as "kariyushi," or happiness, which she believes people will understand when they see it.
"Language is not important," she said. "People who understand fashion understand each other."