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REDValentino to Feature Native Hawaiian Fashion Designers After Intellectual Property Controversy

Manaloa Yap (left) and Kēhaulani Nielson's (right) designs for REDValentino.
Manaloa Yap (left) and Kēhaulani Nielson's (right) designs for REDValentino.

Three Native Hawaiian fashion designers will have their works featured in REDValentino’s store during the Chelsea in Bloom Festival in London next month.

Areas of Chelsea, London, will be decorated with floral and landscape art. The REDValentino store on Sloane Street — one of the most exclusive fashion strips in London — will have floral art on its exterior, and clothes made by Native Hawaiian designers in the interior.

Kēhaulani Nielson, Manaola Yap, and Kini Zamora each produced a textile pattern inspired by the legend of Pele and her youngest sister Hiʻiaka’s journey through the Hawaiian islands.

HPR reached out to Zamora — a former contestant on the popular reality TV show, Project Runway.

He is the third generation in his family to sew clothes. His aunt, who learned how to sew from her parents, would hold sewing classes for him and his cousins. By the next lesson, Zamora was the only one left — eager to express his creative side through the art of fabrics.

His textile design for REDValentino is decorated with a repetitive pattern of palapalai fern.

Kini Zamoa's palapalai design on a shoulder bag.

"Pele had basically said, 'Here’s a choice of skirts for you to go on this journey with for protection. Which one do you want?' And she chose pāʻūopalai. Pāʻūopalai was her protection and her pāʻū skirt. That’s where I got my inspiration for this print," Zamora explains.

The collaboration between the three Native Hawaiian designers was prompted after REDValentino was criticized for using local artist Allen Akina’s quilt pattern on several apparel items.

This design sparked controversy and prompted REDValentino to reach out to OHA.
This design sparked controversy and prompted REDValentino to reach out to OHA.

The company said they had no knowledge they were using a Hawaiian quilt pattern. They originally received the design from a New York graphic artist who stole Akina’s work.

They reached out to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to apologize to the Hawaiian community. After several discussions with OHA, they agreed to showcase Native Hawaiian designers’ artwork to their international market.

Vicky Holt Takamine is the Executive Director of the Paʻi Foundation — a nonprofit dedicated to preserving traditional Native Hawaiian arts and culture. She was directly involved with the discussions between OHA and REDValentino. She remarks, "REDValentino pulled all of the clothing that they had produced, and it has not been made available for sale."

"They were like, 'Oh my god. We had just appropriated an Indigenous people’s intellectual property rights. We did something wrong.' They apologized, and they pulled everything back, and tried to work with the Hawaiian community to find a way to make amends," Takamine says.

Takamine believes this collaboration is a good opportunity to have a discussion on cultural appropriation, and bring awareness to Native Hawaiians on their rights as Native people in a colonized community.

Zoe Dym was a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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