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Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, May 9, 2000

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Allyson Choy wears a striped top ($42) she purchased
at A/X Armani Exchange. Cherie Furuta wears a slip
dress ($145) in the color "Lagoon," with a sheer
gold sweater ($88).

Armani gets
real with A/X

The store offers designer
styling at prices students
can afford

By Nadine Kam


There's art, then there's reality. There's nothing more irksome than glossy ads and magazine spreads with 16-year-olds lounging or cavorting in $3,000 gowns and suits that, face it, reflect a lifestyle beyond the reach of most adults.

The reaction to such ads is a cynical, "Yeah, right," not likely the reaction designers want to hear.

But Giorgio Armani listened and with real people in mind came up with A/X Armani Exchange, a collection that redefines the basics -- khakis, slacks, T-shirts, skirts and slip dresses -- in edgier style than the mid-price Emporio Armani line, for those with grand fashion aims but teeny pocketbooks.

And have real people responded?

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Clockwise from top left, Antonio Rocha, Andrew
Sakaguchi and Robert Yoshimura are the picture
of comfort in A/X designs.

Robert Yoshimura, a student, fell in love with the line when he worked at the first A/X Armani Exchange Hawaii boutique, which opened in Waikiki in 1996.

What got him hooked were the looks of appreciation. (ZZ Top may have been on to something when the band sang, "every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed man.")

"I'd go to the clubs and I'd always get compliments. People would ask, 'What are you wearing?' Not everybody knew or had heard about the store," Yoshimura said.

"Now that it's at Ala Moana, everybody's going. But for a while, it was my secret."

Doors will be closed 6 to 10 p.m. Friday for the store's private grand opening on the mall level near Pocketbook Man. Afterward, revelers will continue the celebration at Ocean Club. A/X Armani Exchange, after all, promises its clothes can take wearers from event to beachside to club crawl without wasting a second in an era in which fashion equals lifestyle.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
From left, Andrew Sakaguchi, Cherie Furuta and
Robert Yoshimura show A/X Armani Exchange
designs. Sakaguchi's 100 percent cotton sweater
that fades from orange to tan is $72; Furuta's
nylon jacket is $125; Yoshimura's cotton
sweater is $62, worn with orange nylon
bungee pants, $72.

Actor Andrew Sakaguchi understood early the power of a label as a means of mass acceptance, but these days, he sees them as a reflection of his individuality.

"We all go through our phases, not knowing what's right to wear," he said, painfully admitting, "I had the Jordache jeans, the Members Only jacket in high school. It was so important, the 'status.'

"Being an actor, I'm always in costume, playing different parts, so off stage I want clothes that express me at my most casual or put together. I'm into wearing clothes that project me as I perceive myself."

Sakaguchi, who stopped by the store en route to teaching a dance class, said he's hooked on A/X Armani Exchange's body-conscious knits and the company's khakis, a basic with better fit than most labels he's tried.

Also in the store now are the looks of summer -- flirty slip dresses the color of tranquil "Lagoon," reds and sunny oranges, clam digger jeans and lightweight knit shirts. Items start at $28 for a stretchy spaghetti strap top, to about $145 for a slip dress.

It took Antonio Rocha a long time to appreciate designer names. He was more of a fan of vintage Hawaiian shirts.

"I didn't like any label that stood out, like Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger."

He said Armani has always been more discreet.

An ex-girlfriend was a fan of the line and brought him shopping. "She was making me try on things and the clothes felt good."

He also draws a lot of compliments for his clothes while he tends bar at Havana Cabana.

At 5-feet-tall, Allyson Choy, who works at the Hawaiian Regent Hotel, and Cherie Furuta, a student, appreciate the line's abundance of petite sizes.

They say they're no snobs when it comes to labels, but as lifelong shoppers, they've also grown to appreciate the value of good construction.

Said Choy, in the store to buy a lycra/spandex top for summer, "If you shop at other (youth-oriented) stores, you find out after three months that your clothes are coming apart and the seams. It's not worth it.

"You may have to save for Armani Exchange, but for better construction I don't mind paying more. And they have a lot of basics that can be mixed and matched with trendy stuff, so it's good."

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