Hawaiian designer survives pandemic and wildfires to debut collection at New York Fashion Week
Originally posted on New York 1 by Cheryl Wills
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NEW YORK — Designer Micah Kamohoali‘i was forced to trade in his sewing machine for a water hose as the largest wildfires that the Big Island had ever seen crept within yards of his home.
"I just couldn't believe this was happening," Micah Kamohoali‘i said.
The timing couldn't be worse. He was just week away from debuting his "Dezigns by Kamohoali‘i" in the fashion capital of the world.
On August first, he was given a mask and told to evacuate his home. His dreams of New York City would have to wait — again. The pandemic had already threw a monkey wrench in his plans.
"Hawaii had a lockdown for a long time so my company had to go online," explained Kamohoali‘i. "We had to create Instagrams and Facebook and that really boomed the business and that got us into New York Fashion Week."
Hawaiians banded together and raised $80,000 so Kamohoalil'i could make the 5,000 mile journey from Honolulu to JFK. And now his latest collection is really taking off; a nod to the Polynesian people and the tropical land that they call home.
"To me its full fashion it's amazing the art that goes into making our fabrics down to the leaves that weave and we wear them in modern ways today," Kamohoali‘i proudly said.
The team behind "Dezigns by Kamohoali‘i" is making the most of their trip. Hawaiian models drew a crowd in Times Square. The traditional hula dance was a big hit in the Crossroads of the World. And the design team soaked in the sights determined to show the fashion industry that Hawaiian couture is about more than flip flops and Aloha shirts.
"Our winds and our rains all have names at home our landscape is storied, our mountains tell stories. We call them our ancestors," Kamohoali‘i said. "Taking all of that and telling their own story, yeah. They're wearing the designs of their people."
And his collection is about the power of the Hawaiian people and perseverance.
"Having Hawaii represented on such a big stage, and we're so far away for the rest of the world to see our fashion and for people to know we don't live in grass huts and we're not running around in coconut bras all day long," said Kamohoali‘i. "We actually have a living and thriving culture and fashion is alive and well in Hawaii."