Hawaii designers usually stick close to home when it comes to ideas and inspirations. Not the brothers Alexander — twins John and Gerald — who set off for one of the world’s fashion capitals, Milan, Italy, when creating their menswear brand Polyascko2.
As John explained, it all started with their schooling at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. "Some people choose to do production in China, some think of Turkey, but when we think of craftsmanship, we think of Italy. It was drilled into us: Italy this, Italy that. Fashion is about preference and education, and when we finished school that is what stayed with us," he said.
The Radford High School graduates launched Polyascko2 in 1999, catering to private clientele and presenting a handful of intimate fashion shows featuring designs befitting an urban gentleman, including contemporary, body-conscious dress shirts and suits for every occasion.
Among those who wear their clothing are former NFL player Ashley Lelie, musician Makana and stylist Robert Steinken, and John said their pieces are standard wardrobe on the set of the new "Hawaii Five-0." When you see Scott Caan in a three-quarter-sleeve shirt, it’s Polyascko2. The shirt is the brand’s signature piece, sold for $175 to $390. (There will be special pricing on the evening of the event.)
"For us this is not a trend, but a classic piece. It’s something we want to see come into fashion and have a place in a man’s wardrobe," John said.
‘A PHILOSOPHY FASHIONED’
A night of high fashion with Polyascko2:
» Place: Edition Waikiki Hotel
» Time: 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, with fashion show at 8 p.m.
» Tickets: $15 to $50; $10 students
Honolulu will have the opportunity to see Polyascko2’s vision in play when the brothers present "A Philosophy Fashioned" at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Edition Waikiki Hotel. About 80 garments will be presented in the 45-minute show, double the length of any major New York runway show.
"Without the Edition opening up, we really didn’t see an opportunity like this. There’s something special about the hotel and being in this place where everything’s going on right now," John said. "There’s series like ‘Hawaii Five-0’ and ‘Off the Map,’ all these publications and magazines talking about fashion, and all this attention focused on new designers, so we thought this was the right time to do a showcase."
THE FASHION CLIMATE is quite different from when the brothers, now 31, started at age 20.
"Compared to what it is today, it was like hieroglyphics. It was primitive," John said.
Few people were talking about fashion or willing to pay for luxury items, which is how the brothers wanted to brand Polyascko2. Looking to the example of the aloha shirt — which took on global prominence from the 1930s through 1950s, abetted first by radio and ocean travel, then by film and air travel — John said he sees no reason Hawaii cannot have another fashion renaissance. He said the brothers see themselves as stewards of the idea of luxury designed in Hawaii and produced by Italian hands with quality Italian materials.
"Hawaii has its own style, and a lot of it is reflected in high fashion but we never see Honolulu or Hawaii mentioned," he said. "All over the fashion map there are a lot of floral prints and aloha shirts, but Hawaii is not getting any credit for it.
"Hawaii has a lot to offer, and we don’t want to take it for granted. Even if people come from New York, they love New York, but when they come to Hawaii, oh, what an experience it is.
"Even in Milan we tell people we’re from America, and that’s one thing, but when we say we’re from Hawaii, their hearts beat faster."
The show marks the Alexanders’ first attempt to reach a mass market, and John said they wanted to make sure they had the production capabilities in place.
"We didn’t want to do a show and not be prepared to deliver."
Most of all, they wanted to know that Hawaii is prepared to accept their vision of high fashion for men.
"It’s not high fashion with pretension," John said. "It’s about quality. It’s like food: When you’re searching for a particular taste, you’ll pay a premium to get what you want."