Ready to fly


POSTED: Thursday, April 22, 2010

What a difference a few years makes. Not too long ago, fashion design students emerged from our schools with a vague desire to work in the fashion industry, and not much of a vision.

But the past few years' burst of D.I.Y. energy, accompanied by the rise of Internet fashion, commerce and its attendant success stories, has made every new designer aware of competition and the power of niche marketability.

So I was very impressed with this year's seniors from Honolulu Community College, who are preparing to stage their sold-out fashion show, “;Flight,”; on Saturday night. It certainly made my job easier to say, “;Tell me about your collection,”; and let them unleash their vision, without resorting to the usual game of 100 questions to cobble together a coherent response. To be inarticulate these days means being lost among the hundreds of new designers emerging every year.






        Student designer fashion show:


» Place: Honolulu Community College cafeteria


» When: 7 p.m. Saturday


» Tickets: Sold out, but a limited number of $10 standing-room-only tickets will be available.


I'd say these seniors are ready to take flight.  Click through the photo gallery, above, to see a sampling of the designers' creations.



The designer already has a business, Wicked Tights & Gear, creating pro-wrestling apparel. The self-taught designer and quilter started her company in 2006 but decided to go to school to hone her skills.

“;There was so much I didn't know. I had no idea about grain lines or the names of basic stitches. The most important thing was learning to draft, to know how to create a pattern rather than guessing how something might be put together.”;

Key to her line are pants, made of durable Jumbo Spandex used in National Football League uniforms. She also creates tank tops and jackets, used mostly for show, and removed by wrestlers once they enter the ring.

“;Now when I look at my outfits, I'm amazed,”; she said.



The designer never outgrew the magic of prom night and has channeled her passion into a collection of “;Midnight Ruby”; gowns.

Min started sewing at about age 8, won awards for her design work in high school, and learned attention to detail by working at an alterations and custom design business in Kahala.

She said she has no feel for “;regular clothes,”; and said, “;My goal since I started designing is to someday get onto red carpets.”;



An avid athlete, Thomsen said friends who've known her a long time would be surprised to see her pursuing fashion.

“;I was a volleyball, basketball, soccer player. People would say, 'You do fashion? But you're a jock.'”;

She enjoyed sewing as well and was making costumes for Tihati productions before taking up formal studies.

Inspired by the tuluma, Samoan tattoo implements made for royalty, the designer creates looks for men and women in natural fabrics embellished with the hand-stamped and painted imagery.



Fashion design is the second career choice of Curtis Ho, who completed the coursework in the animation program at Kapiolani Community College before figuring out what he really wanted to do.

While working on animation and spending time on the computer, he roamed the Internet and became obsessed with shoes. “;I would look at blogs, see what shoes were coming out, and that led to more lifestyle, fashion and music sites.”;

At the same time, he said he found it difficult to find things to wear. “;I wanted to design for myself because it's hard to find things in my size because I'm kind of skinny and tall.”;

His inaugural collection for men bears the somewhat unwieldy but evocative name of “;Mega-Handsome Jetset Vacation,”; built on nautical, summery separates in classic tanks, shorts and suiting in red, white, navy and pale blue.



The designer entered the program with the notion of designing trendy, youthful dresses, but has done his homework in asking women what they want, and has responded by creating multipurpose clothing for multitasking women.

“;When I started, I didn't know what stores I would go into, what niche I would fill, and what bigger niche is there than the working woman?

“;All my clothing has to do something, so it can be appropriate for a businesswoman out to kick corporate butt, and changed in some way for going out for cocktails after work.”;

Among pieces he's showing are jackets that can be removed to reveal a back-baring top.



The designer isn't particularly interested in the mass market, tapping into his own inner woman to create pieces for a handful of divas who have no trouble revealing sass and attitude.

His futuristic collection, above left, uses structure to accentuate hips and shoulders a la the 1980s. “;Accentuating the hips makes the waist look smaller, and gives the body a curvier, womanly shape,”; he said, aggressively flaunting the difference between women and men.

“;My mom always says, 'Why don't you design something for me?' But I'm designing for a Sasha, or a Natasha, not a Karen or Peggy Lee.”;



The designer loves playing with texture and materials in reconciling decadence with a streak of practicality. His dark “;Void”; collection demonstrates it is possible to make the edgy wearable, with separates that pull double duty. A bolero scarf, for instance, can keep off the chill in a restaurant or movie theater, or wrapped for dramatic effect at a fashionable soiree.

Mixes of leather, mesh, see-through, and soft and smooth fabrics lend interest to garments out of need “;to put on a show,”; he said, while remaining accessible to consumers.