FashionableBy Betty Shimabukuro
SHE doesn't cook, but she loves to eat, so she's built television specials around the state's top chefs -- and counts many among her closest friends.
She doesn't sew and knows little about the fashion industry, but she loves clothes, so she's just launched a clothing line that bears her name.
And why not?
Emme Tomimbang, TV producer and long-time on-air personality, has formed a partnership with the company that for a dozen years has provided her with her on-camera wardrobe, Iolani Sportswear.
The Island Moments by Emme line -- named for Tomimbang's television shows -- has been on the floor at Liberty House Ala Moana for about a week, and spokeswoman Barbara Tunno says it's already selling well. It should be in all Liberty House stores this week.
"We think it will be a well-sought-after collection," Tunno says.
The casual line of easy-care rayon dresses, short sets and skirt-top combinations -- as well as button-down aloha shirts for men -- reflects what Tomimbang calls her love for island things.
The designs are retro and whimsical, featuring classic Hawaiian images: the grass-skirted hula girl, ukuleles, palm trees.
Mary Miyaguchi, merchandiser and stylist for Iolani, who has fitted Tomimbang for many years, says the designs are inspired by the spirit of her TV shows.
"We were trying to find things that would capture an island moment, whether it's walking on a beach, watching the sunset, or Emme's favorite music."
Says Tomimbang, "It's really a statement on lifestyle for me."
Iolani Sportswear, a 46-year-old local firm, is emerging from the background with this line, says Lloyd Kawakami, who heads the company founded by his father.
Iolani has been active marketing islandwear outside Hawaii, Kawakami says, "but people here don't know who we are and what we stand for."
Tomimbang has been wearing Iolani fashions since she started working in TV, and in later years has been involved in selecting fabrics and silhouettes for her dresses. Miyaguchi, she says, has come to know her personal style exactly.
The collection gets a formal introduction to the public in a pair of personal appearances and informal modeling sessions Nov. 20.
But Tomimbang is gearing up for a splashy -- if still informal -- kickoff the next day, Nov. 21, when she has an all-star lineup to model her fashions in the Ala Moana store's Island Attitudes section.
Among her female models will be First Lady Vicky Cayetano and former Miss Universe Brook Lee. Modeling the menswear will be -- of course -- a half-dozen chefs, among them Alan Wong, who has opened The Pineapple Room, at Liberty House.
"I'm trying to show them out of their chef outfits," Tomimbang says, "and show them as island boys."
Liberty House will show off Emme Tomimbang's new collection in its stores:
Nov. 20: Noon-2 p.m., Pearlridge; 3-4 p.m. Kahala Mall
Nov. 21: 6:30 p.m., Ala Moana, with celebrity models
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