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Photography by Neemias Seara | Written by Fiore


When European style meets Polynesian dress, a culture is discovered. The layered history of Hawaii and the tradition of the islands have age-old lessons that help us better understand their way of life and the meaning behind their colorful apparel.

When European style meets Polynesian dress, a culture is discovered. The layered history of Hawaii and the tradition of the islands have age-old lessons that help us better understand their way of life and the meaning behind their colorful apparel. By Fioré.


As a Fashion Editor and Visual Artist, my expertise mainly covered Europe and the trend-

setting cities of New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. Hawai’i is a culture within itself, and the most familiarity I had with it was a brief stint many moons ago for a week stay in the city of Honolulu. With little time to research, and a speedy decision needing to be made without offending the offer, I decided to roll with the opportunity and let it take me where I needed to go.


The first thing I learned when I arrived in Honolulu was, that while it is not considered “on the map” when it comes to fashion, it certainly has its share of beautiful designer shops debuting the latest in cruise wear, as well as its generous resort allowance that graced each and every island. It also has an extremely strong trend of Asian influence. It was not long until I was able to spot a goddess or two walking the streets in their magnificent beauty, and one little girl in particular named Kiana.


Shortly after my latest arrival to Honolulu, I received an invite by Richie Miao to his premiere fashion show launch of his new line, "Lovelessizm", which reached far beyond my expectations. The models were spectacular, the clothes even more so, and his fall choices were accompanied by the most intriguing electric violinist and hip-hop artist, which made the show a moment to remember. Shortly after, I was invited to his V.I.P. party at a local HIFI gathering., which sponsored the after party, prided itself on promoting Hawaii Fashion as Art and Industry. It was great to be a part of these momentous occasions where an industry is being born with a fresh start, and where ambitious artists are making a presence on the great island of O’ahu.


Aside from the niche fashion couture assemblage, there is a definite resolve of Polynesian influence sprinkled amongst the bathing suits, boy shorts, and your handful of high fashion lovers. Once I began to learn more about that ascendancy, it soon opened a larger, even more prevalent historical relevance that I needed to learn. This attire was not just a statement – it was a message; the way it was worn in dance and the body language that was presented, all were parts of a story. The wardrobe was more than just a statement – it was like wearing a handwritten letter.


Before attempting to create anything remotely encouraged by the Hawaiian spirit, there was a much-needed learning curve I needed to overcome. Considering that I was an Italian/British American raised in a European home, I was mentally separated from this Polynesian paradise. As I was immersed in the local Hawaiian scene, it was much like a boot camp for the mistakenly misinformed — just getting past my somewhat comical pronunciation of the streets kept everyone laughing. After several months of island-hopping, I started to get the hang of it. There is a distinct moment when you realize you are no longer recognized as the quintessential “tourist” and therefore must learn, with great respect, where you are and who is really in charge. The Hawaiians will both invite you and educate you once you understand this and are in this mix. The first thing you will learn is that the population is on the verge of extinction – as they (the Hawaiians) put it, as the remaining “100% Hawaiians” are very few and far between when compared with the Caucasians, Asians, and the like who have claimed their seat on these Islands.


Their benevolence and love (their aloha) has been greatly admired, and they are family (their ohana). To them this is considered hanai (extended family). Through this experience, I’ve graciously and with utmost respect now gained a hanai family who will always welcome me whenever I return. Because of Hawai’i, I am forever reminded of human kindness. The days are filled with celebration for their culture and heritage through the native Hula Dance, great respect for the Earth, paying your daily respects to the sunset, clean air, energy, and to the ocean. It’s all in remembrance of what the Earth has done for us all. It’s a much further step than I was used to and, of course, something I needed to understand before any creativity could commence.


Understanding the people, pace, idiosyncrasies, and acceptable voice of Hawai’i; and translating them through this brand, while remembering not to alienate my popular mainland critics, was my greatest challenge. Once I was able to truly understand where I was, and what this line must evoke, my team and I were confident with our decision. As not to reinvent the wheel, and clearly differentiate between two very different cultures inhabiting the same name of United States of America, we decided to create a special Hawai’i collection- the first of the lines – and then move to the popular culture that will invite a more “mainland” approach.


I am pleased to say the line is in development with great encouragement from our client, and will be centered on Kiana’s love for Hawaiian culture and color. Primarily, printed dresses and surfer tees will initiate the line. Furthermore, the additional line will include t-shirts and dresses inspired from American pop culture to include iconic sayings, innovative characters, and imaginative designs all inspired by Kiana.


As for my boss, well, she pays well and gave me a standing ovation for a job well done. Whew, I never thought I would see the day when I would be grateful to an eight -year- old for the work. I leave with only gratitude for the experience, growth to my extended knowledge with a Polynesian piece in my fashion repertoire, and a new place to call home. To my Hawaiian friends and ohana, Aloha from the bottom of my heart, and Mahalo (thank you) for your acceptance, gratitude, and for all you taught me about life, love, and respect. – Fioré




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