Carnival of Visions


POSTED: Thursday, April 30, 2009

Student fashion shows tend to be straightforward affairs, with models filing down the runway to various beats with one set design and one lighting strategy. Simplicity limits the usually infinite number of snafus that can occur during a live event. But for designers, “;easy”; is not much of a vision.





        Honolulu Community College student fashion show:

» Place: Sheraton Waikiki Molokai Ballroom


» Time: Doors open at 11:30 a.m., noon lunch, 1 p.m. show, Sunday, May 3


» Tickets: $40


» Call: Joy Nagaue, 845-9203




So this year, students of Honolulu Community College's Fashion Technology Department are taking on the daunting task of presenting 13 miniature shows within a show, with each designer paired with a producer to bring his or her vision to life, with unified staging, lighting, hair and makeup concepts. That would be fairly easy to pull off in real life, when designers hire the number of models they want, without having to worry about changing hair and makeup within the show, but not so easy in a show with multiple designers sharing many of the same models.

Sitting in class with the students on a Tuesday planning session, I felt tired thinking about the logistics of ordering the designers and models so the models would have time for a total re-do in between segments.

The taskmaster behind all of this is longtime designer-stylist-producer and event planner Amos Kotomori, who said, “;Clothes are just the beginning of a designer's work. You can't be a fashion designer without knowing how to produce a line and put on a show. It's important to have both sides.”;

Having listened to students' music ideas in a prior session, he introduced sample discs of artists outside their experience that might help set the mood and ambience, artists such as Nina Simone and Nino Rota, who scored many Fellini films.

During the class, designers and producers presented storyboards with their set, hair and makeup inspirations.

“;They begin to see where the pitfalls are,”; said Kathy Raymond, who is assisting Kotomori in the endeavor.

Natasha Li, whose theatrical dresses and gowns demand equal drama in hair and makeup, aimed for vivid peacock green eyes paired with purple lips. Kotomori asked her to consider that the purple that looks so good on a magazine page might register as gray on stage.

Nick Fahey, who is showing a swimwear collection marked by its hardware accents as well as lines, was invited to consider echoing his stage design concept with body paint on the models.

In the process of allowing the students to conceive and articulate their ideas, Kotomori said, “;What I'm really doing is teaching them to think, how to be a problem solver, and it's interesting to see the metamorphosis. They're able to communicate better, and now they're not afraid to ask for help.”;

Kotomori is driving the students to give them a realistic view of what their job might be like outside the safe confines of the classroom.

“;I wish I had this experience. I learned the hard way, over three or four years,”; said Kotomori, who sees his job as waking the students to their innate strengths.

“;I don't think they understand yet the potential of who they are and what they can do.”;

“;Amos has done a really good job of handing the work over to the class, while guiding us through the process,”; said Vinh Buu, a denim designer elected by his classmates to oversee the production. “;It's been really stressful, but everything we're doing, we're doing ourselves. We're always meeting and doing so much of the work outside the classroom.”;

Buu, who also juggles a full-time job at Diesel, fills his classroom role with the ease of a pro.

“;It's been really helpful to me to work in an environment that's parallel to what I'm doing in school,”; he said. “;I've always been creative but never had an outlet. I don't draw or paint, but I've always loved clothes and loved the way I feel when I'm wearing something really nice, so it's become my medium to express my artwork.”;

Hailing from Seattle, he said, “;I'd never been involved in school or extracurricular programs, so when I moved here I told myself I was going to work as hard as I can and do as much as I can. I'm working full time, I'm going to school full time, I'm president of the fashion club and director of the show. I'm spread thin but I love the experience. I wouldn't trade it for anything.”;