Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, November 17, 1998

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
After seven hours of preparation, models hit the runway in garments
by Sonia Rykiel. Bottom left, Brandi Glanville sneaks up behind
Sherry Williams. Bottom right, Tajia Kato takes a break to
make a phone call.

Aloooha la la

A time to indulge in all that's
haute and very French

By Nadine Kam
Features Editor


THE global economy is precarious, the United States and Iraq are prepared for a face-off, our president is on trial due in part to his sexual escapades and gays are still fighting for rights basic to our Constitution.

In the midst of such downers, the French Festival Gala Fashion Show Saturday represented a welcome time-out, one brief moment embodying the best of man's creative endeavors.

In a grand performance that involved 40 models, a matching number of dressers, 20 stylists, set builders, sound and light staff under the direction of Dean Christopher, as well as the Honolulu Youth Symphony and the wait staff of the Hilton Hawaiian Village, an appreciative audience of about 600 were witness to one of the biggest fashion events to ever take place in Hawaii.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
It wasn’t all glamor and million-dollar fashions at the French
Festival Gala Fashion Show. Behind the scenes it was, at times,
frantic. Models had to make a mad dash through the service galley
and negotiate between the servers and equipment between changes
in order to make it on stage in time for their walk. The entrance to
the stage to the dressing room was on opposite sides of the Hilton
ballroom, making the run necessary.

Sharing two stages were haute couture designs by Chanel and Christian Dior, as well as the pret-a-porter collections of Yves Saint-Laurent for Neiman Marcus, a 30-year anniversary collection by Sonia Rykiel and Hermes' signature collection for men.

"This is such a rare opportunity," Christopher said. "The haute couture hardly ever leaves Paris. People have flown in from all around the world to see this event. I'd say 20 percent of the audience are from out of town."

Local model Rochelle Ovitt was taken by the notion that she was wearing one of the least expensive outfits, comprised of a Chanel dress and jewelry, worth about $500,000. "Most of the other girls are wearing a million dollars," she said.

The reason for the hefty price tag is that every bit of sparkle was genuine. Chanel's Joyce Okano Reed said, "It's hard to translate on the runway, but with the haute couture, every pearl you see is a real pearl. Every bit of gold is real gold. It's really a fine art."

"Why couture?" some may wonder. How practical are million-dollar wardrobes in this day and age?

Eric Phillips, who was able to open his ocean-sport store Island Paddler thanks to income from his modeling career, said such shows are necessary flights of fantasy.

"It's important to break up the monotony of daily routines. A show like this is kind of what we aspire to be."

Here's a peek at the work that accompanies such aspirations:

The stylists

True to cliche, the stylists arrive dressed all in black, and quickly start setting up their stations, plugging in hot rollers, unpacking hairspray and combs until Paul Tamaoka lets out a panicked cry.

He has forgotten his blow dryer.

"I was concentrating so much on everything else, I forgot the most important thing," he said. "I made sure I had pins, I stopped at Longs for hairnets. When I picked up my bag, I did think it was kind of light."

Gerry Davenport Brown spent the day before trying to avoid that situation by "checking and double-checking" her kit to make sure she had "every torture tool imaginable -- hair nets, brushes, glues and potions."

At 3:30 p.m. it is an hour until the stylists skills would be in demand, so Tamaoka has time to call a friend to deliver his dryer. But he does not have room to relax. What is difficult about a show of this caliber is the stylists don't know which girls they are working with and "there are so many different kinds of hair," Tamaoka said.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
A model is fitted with a Christian Dior necklace.

In addition, the makeup looks change from house to house to house, Brown said, necessitating a lot of combing, fluffing and makeup removal and application between segments.

The makeup instructions call for a circular concentration of blush on the cheeks during the Sonia Rykiel show, which must then be toned down for the YSL segment. Rykiel demands pink or rose tone lips, while YSL calls for crimson, auburn or berry colors.

Smoky eyes from YSL's show are toned down for Chanel's, when eyes are partially rimmed with rhinestones. "The final effect should be magical and delicate," read the instructions.

Tamaoka isn't as concerned about the changes as much as he is about how the model's hair will hold up. "I hope nobody's hair gets burned or stuck," he said.

The dressers

Marsha Miyata is trying to borrow Elsie Fernandez's neck, but Fernandez offers her arm instead for trying on one of Christian Dior's necklaces.

"I don't know how to hook it," said Miyata.

Both women are students from Honolulu Community College's Fashion Technology Program. They've been in the dressing room since the clothes arrived at 4:30 p.m., getting acquainted with every button, zipper, hook and headdress.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Models strike poses for Christian Dior.

They're worried that some of the gossamer garments will snag or tear, but they trust the models to "know what they're doing," Fernandez said.

The stress level rises when the clothes arrived, as dressers inspect the shopping bags attached to the garments, making sure each ensemble is complete. Each set of garments comes with a placard with a Polaroid photo of the model in each change, along with specific dressing instructions.

Elisa's instructions for the Dior segment read, "Don't cover tattoo on ankle. Put double-stick tape on jacket. Secure breast."

There is a crisis among the Dior staff when it is discovered model Joline Towers' shoes don't fit. Fishing line is used to tied the straps together, but her feet slip in them. Double-stick tape comes to the rescue. With the problem solved, Towers puts on her Converse All-Stars. In between show segments, models who are not expected on the runway change back into their own clothes. There is no sitting in haute couture.

The reading material

Amidst the frenzy in the women's dressing room, Natasha Solender curls up with Chuck Carlson's "60 Second Investor."

Yep, she's looking for a safe haven for her modeling fees, but she said she's reading the book for an economics class at Santa Monica College, where she is studying to be a nutritionist. Her degree will give her a nice stable career once her modeling days are over.

Solender, who hails from Russia, has modeled all around the world, but hasn't been seduced by all the glamor. Ever practical, she said she jumped into the stock market after the recent crashes. "I entered at the bottom," she says with the same wide smile that has been her fortune.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Camille Detoledo of France takes a break from reading "
Serial Killers" to get her face made up by Cathy Chun.

Meanwhile, stylists Dennis Guillermo and Rose Tomas tug and pull at Camille Detoledo's hair while she is absorbed in the book "Serial Killers," by Stephane Bourgoin. The French journalist spent two years in America studying such killers with the F.B.I.

Detoledo, who divides her time between Hawaii and Paris, said that in her native country, "We have some (serial killers) but according to this book, 89 percent are from the United States.

"I like to understand what these people have inside their minds. I'm fascinated -- I wonder how come you can kill people?"

Detoledo is more comfortable working behind the scenes in France's fashion industry.

"When I told my mom I was doing this show, she was laughing. In Paris, when I started modeling five years ago I went to Chanel, Dior, Gucci; they all said 'no.' You have to be a top model to work for them, or if you're not the top you have to be 16."

These days though, she's more interested in building her own empire in home furnishings and has already created a line of perfumes for the home. If all goes well, she will be the Martha Stewart of France.

"Who's that?" she asks.

The star

It's been said that many fashion fads originate in Japan and cross over to Europe before coming to America. If so, we might be wearing furry slides on our feet in the year 2000.

That is what Anna Umemiya is wearing when she shows up at rehearsals. Umemiya is to Japan what Kate Moss is to the Western world. As she dresses, so do a legion of teens and young women, according to Megumi Saito of the Youth Planning Center. Saito's company brought in the cluster of 16 magazine, newspaper and TV reporters who are following Umemiya's every move during the fashion gala.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Anna Umemiya is Japan's 'It' girl.

The show marks Umemiya's international debut and she appears wary of the movement around her, though she is too polite to protest.

Umemiya's Western features may be exotic in Japan, but compared with the multiethnic Hawaii models, she looks like the girl next door. But the Japan reporters are oblivious to the other beauties that surround them. When a crew from Fuji Television's "Nice Day" program is asked if they would be taking their other "discoveries" home to viewers, they respond that they are only interested in Anna.

When the show starts, she makes a stunning debut dressed in a horizontal-striped two-piece knit ensemble, embellished with a stole of fox fur. The skirt rides low on her hips and although she is draped with the fur en route to the stage, the women are kept waiting so long before show time that she gets fidgety, rewrapping and redraping the fur until she doesn't seem quite sure how it should be worn.

She finally slithers on stage with the fur trailing behind her shoulder. She vamps it up and the men in the audience seem enraptured.

The food

The guests are served escargot and scallops topped with puff pastry, with roasted garlic butter and parsley coulis; chilled lobster consomme and tomato concasse; a medallion of filet mignon with morel sauce; and a spring basket of greens with goat cheese.

The model's table is set with crab salad and other sandwiches, assorted fruits, cookies and potato chips.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
One of Chanel's "million dollar looks" -- a gown
made of wispy purple and white Pellon, worn with a
sparkling veil.

None of the models seemed to be dieting. Veronica Zhang, a model from L.A. said, "Most models don't care about dieting, although sometimes you need to cut back; otherwise your face gets puffy."

Between the 7 p.m. serving of hors'doeuvres and 8 p.m. entree, the kitchen staff gets to take a breather. They line up in the service corridor that runs the length of the ballroom, forming a gantlet for models running from the dressing room to the stage.

As models rush by in see-through YSL silk-chiffon tops, one of the male staffers, who didn't want his name used, confirmed the obvious, "We get better views than anybody else here."

The men

The men's dressing room exibits little of frenzy of the women's dressing room. With only 12 male models and only the Hermes collection to present, they have much more time to primp and preen and enjoy the clothes.

Bryden Lando likes the unconstructed, clean lines of the apparel, "which is my style," he said.

But his dresser thinks the jacket looks a little too big and attempts to pad the shoulders with a stack of napkins. There's a fear that the jacket will blow open on the ramp and the napkins will flutter out. Dresser Lori Moriwake pulls a bunch of double-stick tapes from her jacket pocket. Having staged her own shows as a designer, Moriwake said, "Tape is the cure for so many things."

Assured that Lando's jacket is secure, she dashes back to the women's room and misses the gun lesson. At the show's finale, the men will enter the stage with confetti guns powered by a CO2 cartridge. There's a danger in shooting the compressed air and wad of paper in a way that injures one of the other models, so the models receive instructions on firing them.

The men get makeup too, but only enough to hide blemishes. Other instructions read, "If there is an exaggerated appearance of 'bags,' lightly mask without creating 'raccoon' eyes. The Hermes segment is all about the hair. It should look good and styled without looking out of place. There should be an occasional male with a more tousled appearance."

Stylist Janice Lee has taken this last bit to heart. The mantra she sings while she works is "Tousle, tousle, tousle."

The show

On stage for Spring '98:

Bullet Sonia Rykiel -- Highlights of the collection are open-back sweaters and appliqued knit tops over long, fluid knit skirts.

Bullet Hermes -- Bryden Lando is the first on stage, in his unconstructed jacket, a sleek modern look that characterizes the collection. From the back of the room, a table full of women start waving their napkins, letting out an enthusiastic, "Hello!"

Bullet Yves Saint-Laurent -- Shows a collection of pantsuits with double-breasted black jackets, accented with silk flowers at the lapel or neck. Sheer silk-chiffon, peasant-style blouses are ruffled at the cuffs and have a Spanish flair. These are paired with black skirts.

Other crochet-style peek-a-boo garments that look like a cross between Maori and African garb, are accented with plastic beads and sequins.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Under Dean Christopher's watchful eye, models
strut their stuff during rehearsals. In the background,
waiters prepare for guests.

Bullet Chanel -- Stages a romantic show filled with gowns. Hair nets studded with rhinestones give models a look reminscent of the Renaissance era. Standout garments include a purple gown made of Pellon, an interfacing fabric that is as sheer as cotton candy; a two-tiered gown of flower cutouts held togther by a grid of thin threads; a sweater of raw loose silk threads encased between layers of tulle, embroidered and top-stitched to create a fabric, with the loose threads evident only in the sleeve ends.

Bullet Christian Dior -- The presentation borrows from the theatrics of designer John Galliano's Paris shows, with a candle-holding model dashing on stage to light a candelabrum. The models pose and swoon as they drape themselves over benches and chairs on stage. Clothing styles reflect the turn-of-the-century, not the upcoming one, but the last, with a range of Edwardian to flapper designs.

Flowing white-and-mauve floral silk chiffon dresses dominate. There are a few suits in pink or icy green. One of the most beautiful pieces is a fitted, Edwardian-style jacket with a long peplum, stiched from black fabric that had been cut-out to look like eyelet.


The show went off without a hitch, and if there were any glitches, only the show's producer Dean Christopher knows for sure. And you can be certain he took notes. Planning for next year's show starts in two weeks.

Do It Electric!

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