On the run during an Ala Moana Center fashion hunt, Donna Therrien is paired with fashion advisers Chip, left, and Pepper Foster. The twins are owners of a Los Angeles boutique.

Fashion frenzy
island style

A Kailua teacher shops her way
through Ala Moana in search
of a "Look for Less"

Donna Therrien's idea of a fresh, new look was an outfit suitable for a new teaching job. But the Style channel had another idea, draping Therrien in a mango-toned, slinky sarong during a frenzied for-TV shopping excursion at Ala Moana Center last week.

That didn't faze the Kailua teacher, who's tickled pink at the vibrant outfit she received as payoff for serving as a clothes horse for E!'s Style network's "The Look for Less."

Therrien was one of four picked from among 4,000 in a search for candidates willing to be dressed by "The Look" stylists in Honolulu.

The three find the perfect white tank top at White House Black Market.

She said she caught the show's promo a month ago while channel surfing. "They said, 'We'll be coming to Honolulu, if you're interested in being on the show, contact us,'" she said. "I e-mailed that I was starting a new job ... finally got rid of the baby fat after having two babies in four years, and I needed a new look to go with the job and new body."

What she got instead of work attire was a splashy knockoff of a Carolina Herrera $6,000 runway ensemble for under $100. Plus memories she'll treasure forever.

Hosted by Elisabeth Hasselbeck of "Survivor: Outback" fame, the half-hour show (find it on Oceanic Cable's digital 550, analog 77) demonstrates the premise that high style doesn't have to be pricey. A mix of celebs and design gurus drive the point by scouring sales racks and vintage store bins with everyday people, guiding them toward stylish duds for about $100.

Chip and Pepper Foster, owners of trendy L.A. boutique Golf Punk, are regulars in a segment that turns bargain hunting into a sport, pitting them in an race against the clock to copy a look from a snapshot they clutch all the while.

Producer Jennifer Ferraro said Therrien was a perfect candidate for the segment, able to banter with the zany Foster twins, known for hand-standing between clothes racks and dangling from dressing-room door frames.

The host of the show, Elizabeth Hasselbeck holds a photograph of the Carolina Herrera design they were trying to copy.

Viewers are led to believe the fashion quest is limited to an hour, but in this case it took about five, having more to do with Hollywood time than Hawaiian time, involving several scene takes and stops to replace dead batteries in monitors and film cameras. Actual air time will probably be five to 10 minutes.

The show also makes it look as though the fashion subjects are spending their own money, but Ferraro says they get paid back -- and they get to keep the clothes. "It's a little bonus for their participation."

The Hawaii road trip will be edited down to two shows -- featuring two women each. Only Therrien was chosen for the tropical look.

"They already had a corporate or European look (for the other two subjects)," said Therrien, so a resorty combo from the Herrera 2002 ready-to-wear collection was chosen for her -- "to spice it up and add a touch of Hawaii."

The outfit: a mango-and-pink, lettuce-edged ankle-length sarong with white tank, hip-hugging belt and open-toe high-heel sandals. It's not a likely choice for the new Windward District science resource teacher -- lest the goal is to give the superintendent a heart attack. But it is perfect for entrancing a TV audience who'll see Therrien dolled up on a balmy Hawaii summer's eve when the show is aired in the fall.

Undaunted that her outfit wasn't work-worthy, Therrien displayed the characteristics that recently netted her this year's Windward Teacher of the Year title. She pulled up her sleeves and rolled along with the camera, showcasing cheer and good sportsmanship throughout.

Therrien joins Hasselbeck to show off the finished product.

"I was nervous when I got to the mall; this could either be fun or embarrassing," she said. "But then I realized in order to teach, you need to be passionate, energetic and enthusiastic; I do it in front of 25 kids at Lanikai Elementary, I can do it in front of a million (television viewers)."

The producers also added a night out at the Polynesian Cultural Center to Therrien's "script." "They decided to give me and my husband a place to go that I needed to find an outfit for," said Therrien.

"We wanted a place that would illustrate Hawaii," Ferraro explains. "We do that sometimes, work backward, and gear outfits around events like concerts, anniversaries and outings."

With its coconut-bra-clad Tahitian dancers and fire-baton-twirling troupes, the filming locale was a coup for the visitor industry, with the show scheduled to run during the mainland's chilly October.

Cameras were rolling when we caught up with Style in the middle of a clothes spree on Ala Moana Center's third floor.

Host Hasselbeck -- wearing an aqua mod-print halter by Laundry ("It's from wardrobe, wholesale, I think, about $86") and shoes from DSW, an outlet store ("$39 if that") -- thought Ala Moana was an "interesting mix."

"You have Chanel, then Gap, then Prada and Jeans Warehouse," said Haselback. "You can walk into couture for inspiration and copy them" next door.

Filming on location illustrates that high fashion on a budget is possible no matter where you live, she said. Style flew into Honolulu after visiting Las Vegas, Tampa and Miami. Next week -- Dallas.

The group drew quite a crowd, including honeymooners Mary and George Yam, of San Francisco, who stopped to confirm Hasselbeck's star status.

"I knew she was from TV, but I thought it was 'Real World,' not 'Survivor,'" said the newlywed wife as Hasselbeck signed autographs and took pictures with passers-by. "I'm glad we asked. It would have bothered us all night."

Christine Texeira, left, and Kathy Roby were on duty at Jeans Warehouse when the "Look" crew came through. Roby said she'd find it hard to assemble a good outfit for $100.

At this point Therrien already had sarongs in hand. Ever the improvisers, the twins had opted for two sarongs (a bargain at $51 for both from Splash Hawaii) to replicate the fluttered effect of the Herrera skirt.

Then, as if equipped with internal homing devices, they entered the White House Black Market and zeroed in on a clothes tree bearing the perfect tank. Psychic powers aside, they do get a little help.

"We pre-scout the mall," said Ferraro, although she insists not everything is pre-planned. "That would take the fun and challenge out of it."

A Style assistant with calculator in hand tallies the goodies and carries extra cash for Pepper -- who is notorious for dipping into the budget for ice cream splurges between takes.

Given the high cost of living in Hawaii, scoring a complete, satisfactory outfit for $100 could be a stretch.

"It would take me a month," said Kathy Roby, sales associate at Jeans Warehouse, where the perfect belt was found. "I think it's possible, but you would really have to search."

Then came the quest for shoes. The sight of CenterStage, however, spurred the twins to dance the hula, so up they hopped, towing Therrien, who gave them a 60-second lesson.

Next stop was the Slipper House, where they hit a snag.

Somehow, the manager on duty didn't get the alert and wouldn't allow filming unless he got clearance, a detail always handled in advance, according to Ferraro. Whispers and gazes from onlookers ensued, and a few brave ones approached.

"I watch you guys all the time," said Annie Pinieda, high-fiving the duo. Pinieda said she could find a cool outfit under budget in an hour with no problem. But she has an advantage working at the Navy Exchange, where some name brands are sold at special prices.

When taping resumed and shoes were purchased, the cashier played along, taking director's orders gracefully, reciting the cost of "20 dollars and 82 cents" and "20-82" intermittently on command.

"We're finished!" said the twins.

"No, we're pau!" corrected the teacher, flashing a shaka sign.

That's a wrap. Mission accomplished, $1.10 under budget.

The Fosters, who'll be releasing a jeans line at Neiman Marcus, said this particular look was one of the toughest they'd been assigned. "It's easy to match solids and pair basic blacks, but finding something (akin) to this tropical print was a little tough."

Packages in hand, Therrien said she was looking forward to her night out in Laie with her husband, Thom, a builder, scheduled for filming the next day.

The self-described classic conservative who wears mostly muted neutral colors was ecstatic with her new outfit. "It's not something I would choose for myself, but I just love it."

She'll wear the outfit again, she said, maybe to the beach, a pool party or to another luau, "but that's not what's important." It's the experience and the people she's met that she holds dear. "How often does anyone have an opportunity like this?"

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