The past five years have led to tremendous growth in the emergence of local designers and boutiques, though there is much work ahead if the emerging brands are to continue expanding beyond our shores.
The economic downturn didn’t help, but it didn’t seem to stifle entrepreneurial spirit, with new designers finding venues online or opting for temporary pop-up sales promoted via social media networks.
Going forward, 2011 may be the year of increased cooperation between varying fashion entities, old and new. Many entrepreneurs tend to be focused on their own fortunes rather than what anyone else is doing, the real-world extension of the Internet’s focus on me-branding. But one bright spot in 2010 was Pomare and Island Edge’s hosting of a "Hawaii’s Next Design Star" competition that offered cash prizes to three rising stars, and will give winner Sina Thompsen a further assist in the production, branding and marketing of her own design and label in Spring 2011.
Elsewhere, Hawaii Fashion Incubator, launched by Melissa May White and Toby Portner in 2006 to provide networking and advocacy for a young and growing fashion community, is moving forward with plans for a physical incubator space, even if temporary.
The organization had been making its presence known through the website hawaiifashion.org and through a number of pop-up boutiques and First Fashion Fridays at Aloha Tower, as well as collaborative events and displays with retailers and the University of Hawaii’s historic Costume Collection.
But what its founders have longed for is a space to serve as a hub where members of the community can meet, share resources and collaborate to continue pushing the local fashion industry forward.
With Gov. Neil Abercrombie voicing his support for the fashion industry in late fall, this may be the time to strike, and, to give people a taste of what a resource center might be like, Hifi intends to launch a monthlong pop-up laboratory in the spring.
To bring variety to the experience, they intend to invite anyone involved in fashion to sign up for a time slot on a monthlong calendar, during which individuals and groups will be able to host fashion- and fashion marketing-related classes, workshops, exhibits, films, events and trunk shows.
Events already on the calendar include designer/artist Sierra Dew’s popular stencil classes and a workshop with Andy South, during which novice designers will be able to bring in their projects for critiques and help from South.
The group is still seeking sponsors, donated goods and services, and volunteers toward achieving this goal.
Also, for the first time, we’ll welcome the Hawaii Fashion and Beauty Expo in 2011.
Leilani Bush said that in spite of consumer demand she noticed a lack of a fashion and beauty focus in the trade show market, so she set out to create one, to take place March 25 to 27 at the Neal Blaisdell Center.
The event will be host to two competitions: "Operation Runway," a fashion design competition featuring aspiring local designers, and "Hawaii’s Top Model Search," a live runway and photo shoot competition.
There will also be seminars on fashion, makeup, hair, skin and health hosted by beauty professionals. More information about the expo and booth sales is available at www.hawaiifashionandbeautyexpo.com, or call 381-0226.