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MAMO: We Do Wearable Art

Pa'i Foundation
Pa'i Foundation

The Maoli Arts Movement, or MAMO, Wearable Art Show established a base for native Hawaiian fashion when it began 12 years ago.  Last year, Manaola was the first Hawaiian to step from the MAMO stage into the New York Fashion Week spotlight.  This year, organizer Vicky Holt Takamine says the MAMO runway show features a Maui designer who is ready to take off.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports.

Pa'i Foundation
Credit Pa'i Foundation

Fashion born and raised in Hawai’i hits the runway Wednesday night, May 30th.  It’s the MAMO Wearable Art show in a new location, the Hilton Hawaiian Village Tapa Ballroom.  Find tickets at the Pa'i Foundation website.

Kumu hula Vicky Holt Takamine is Executive Director of the Pa’i Foundation, which sponsors the MAMO Wearable Arts Show.  A snappy dresser herself, Takamine has been instrumental in kanaka maoli fashion’s current boom.

Pa'i Foundation
Credit Pa'i Foundation

Takamine: Coming in from Maui for the first time this year, is Koa Johnson.  Koa does haute couture, he is off the runway chart.  I think he’s one of the next ones to go to New York Fashion Week.

Koa Johnson used industrial materials to create gowns in the style of Hawaiian royalty for his show at the Honolulu Museum, his pieces for his KoJo couture label are urban romantic. Anna Kahalekulu will also bring her swingy designs from Maui. 

Takamine: And a new up and coming designer, Kanoelani Davis, from Moloka’I, very sporty wear.

I got an ‘ohe kapala print tube skirt from her last year.

Wahine Toa, Kawika Lum-Nelmida, and Keoua Nelsen, will be there. Jake Pacarro’s Salt Water Heals is joining the line up, and Maile Andrade is debuting some of her prize students.

TheWearable Art show is at the Hilton Hawaiian Village this year.  Why the move, Vicky?

Pa'i Foundation(l-r) Kumu Hula Michael Pili Pang, with the 2018 runway MC's, also both Kumu Hula, Vicky Holt Takamine and Robert Cazimero.
Credit Pa'i Foundation

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Takamine: I think we wanted to expand our offerings for our people.  We wanted to have a dinner event so people that want to come early can sit down and have a nice dinner, and then a trunk show and a market place.  Our artists have dressing rooms, we’re using the suites around.  You know the back of the theatre was getting very crowded with designers.  I’m not sure that it’s not going to be crowded this year, because we also have a cast of I don’t know how many models for each of the designers.  It’ll be fun.

Haha yeah people fly in to model just to get at the clothes.

Takamine: The Artists are coming in Tuesday, and final preparations begin.  Takamine says they’ve done everything to keep the tickets affordable while still paying for the room, the lighting, the technical.  It's a monster.

The Tapa Ballroom is bigtime!  The history, the ambiance.  No one ever accuses Takamine of aiming low.

Takamine: So art for us is ever thing that we wear, the eli we make, the flowers we use for decoration.  To me, that’s art.  The kakau, the tattoos on our body, the lauhala weaving, feathers, lei hulu, all of that is art.

Pa'i Foundation
Credit Pa'i Foundation
Nita Pilaago of Wahine Toa with her models.

Marques Marzan, for example, has used traditional materials to create  bold silhouettes that dialog squarely with international haute couture.

Takamine: We’re wearing it!  We’re walking down the street and getting dressed up and going out in the evening with our native Hawaiian fashion.

You can too.

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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