Take Home Design

Stylish products by Hawai’i’s hottest designers.




One of Honolulu's up-and-coming young designers, Allison Nagato has already had her clothing appear in British Vogue. She trained at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where she won the Anthony Muto Critic's Award for her modern interpretation of a 1920s-era kimono. She's working on a full line for her Reincarnation line for spring 2007; in the meantime, we've shown her custom "Tsuru," ($108). Visit allisonizu.com or call 734-5812.

photo: Polyascko²

"We design for the urban gentleman, and when I say that, I don't mean hip hop, I mean city and metro area," says Gerald Polyascko, who with his twin brother, John, owns and designs the fashion line Polyascko2. The line features intriguing textiles, and while it references tropical living, isn't dependent upon it. "Hawai'i is a neutral zone," says Gerald. "The mindset is totally open. We use all-natural fabrics--at these price points, the clients tend to want natural fabrics." Expect price tags ranging from $30 to $1,000. Visit www.polyascko2.com to shop online and for store locations.

Kamaka 'ukuleles are considered the gold standard among those who play the instrument. On the day we visited the factory, an enormous bouquet celebrating the company's 90th birthday was on display, courtesy of Jake Shimabukuro. "Our bottom line is sound," says Chris Kamaka, the production manager and grandson of founder Samuel Kamaka. His brother, Casey, works on the design side. "Craftsmanship and materials make a good instrument," says Chris. "We're kind of old school." Shown, the new Jake Shimabukuro model (price on request), which features abalone details. Like all Kamakas, it's made of koa wood. Expect to pay at least $495 for a Kamaka; the waiting list is about four to six weeks. Kamaka Hawai'i, 550 South St., 531-3165.

Paradisus, which means paradise in Latin, is a 2-year-old jewelry company run by a mother-daughter team. Akemi Kano is a Honolulu-based researcher, while her mother, Linda Ueda, an interior designer, is based in San Francisco. Their silver cuff bracelets, pins, earrings and pendants feature natural themes, such as banana, monstera and ginko leaves, bamboo and woven lauhala. The results are stunning--substantial, versatile and organic. "We want to maintain a tropical, Asian look," says Ueda. "Something that builds tradition." Prices range from $50 to $250; For a list of retailers, visit www.myparadisus.com.

With an artful blending of textures and non-scary price tags, Devans pillows have obvious appeal. The company is run by Debra Evans. "I love designing using tone-on-tone colors and lately, I've been getting more into contrasting patterns," she says. Each pillow is one-of-a-kind and hand-sewn--"a little piece of soft-sculptured art to be used and enjoyed every day," she notes. The pillows here are $38.50, from Into, 40 N. Hotel St.; 536-2211. You can also find Devans at Nohea Galleries and at Ohelo Road in Kahala Mall.

photo: Anne Namba
One of Hawai'i's best known designers, Anne Namba has been working in this field since 1990. "I use a lot of exotic fabrics, mainly Asian, and want to keep it contemporary. My designs are constantly evolving." For example, Namba has noticed that younger shoppers are buying her clothing. "There's also a trend toward people being fitter, so I'm cutting my clothes closer to the body," she explains. A Namba ensemble will cost you about $500 to $600. 324 Kamani St., 589-1135 or visit www.annenamba.com.

Together with his staff of 15, Steven Kop, president of Aloha Hula Supply, crafts hula supplies such as 'uli'uli (Hawaiian feathered rattles), as well as supplies for other Pacific-origin dancing, such as custom-made Tahitian skirts and headdresses. "We've had orders from all over the U.S., Mexico and Japan," says Kop. The 'uli'uli are $65 to $75, while 'ipu (handheld gourd percussion) are $22 to $30 for singles; 'ipu heke, the double version, starts at $65. Aloha Hula Supply, 648A Laumaka St., 847-7600 or www.alohahulasupply.com.

photo: Kershaw Knives

One of the world's foremost knife designers, Ken Onion, is based on O'ahu. His customers include Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith, Steven Seagal and Wayne Newton. "For a high-end collector, I might use pearl, or abalone, mammoth teeth, mastadon bones, rubies, emeralds," he says. "Hawai'i is a great place to study symmetry and proportion. The culture and atmosphere help me focus on the natural flow and curvature of nature. Without that balance, my results would be limited." He is also the designer for Kershaw Knives ($39.95 and up), which you can find at Wal-Mart, City Mill and gun and knife shops around the Islands. For custom inquiries, call 239-1300, or e-mail Shopjunky@aol.com.

Local artist John Koga has been casting this bronze pig sculpture in his spare time for the past 10 years. The piece comments on the cultural importance of Hawai'i's most beloved meat in a can, says Koga. "[In college], I certainly went through that process of questioning my diet and eating meat, and that's the body of the pig on a conceptual level." You can find Koga's sculpture ($300) at The Shop at The Contemporary Museum Honolulu, 526-1322, ext. 23.


photo: Tai Lake

Tai Lake found his niche fashioning wood into gorgeous tables, chairs and desks. The Big Island artist uses mostly Island woods that he harvests and cures with his sons. Lake creates between 40 and 70 pieces a year, drawing his inspirations from art, history and the world just beyond his back door. "I spend as much time as possible out there beyond the end of the road, out in the water, up in the forest," he says.Ê"All the history and study gives you a sense of what humans can do, but the natural world is made of infinite examples of perfect design.ÊAs our personal environments become more structured and commercialized,Êpieces that embody this type of feeling can bring some sanity and life into our surroundings." Call 324-1598 or visit www.tailake.net.

photo: Mark Chai

"Right now I'm working with a new kind of wood veneer, a two-ply that can hold its own weight," says lamp designer Mark Chai. Chai became interested in lamps after seeing some luminaria in the Southwest. You can see his lamps at the restaurant Town, in Kaimuk•. His design influences include "local things: fruits, seed pods, gardens, hula implements. And there's a lot of math. Buckminster Fuller is an influence." Into, 40 N. Hotel St.; 536-2211, or visit www.markchaiarts.com.

Geoff Lee, owner of Island Glassworks in Kailua, crafts hand-blown decorative artwork and housewares such as vases, sake sets and candle holders. "The ocean inspires me, the mountains. I just keep my eyes open and take in as much as I can." Lee's pieces, which range from $20 to $1,200, can be found at his studio, as well as at the Bethel Street Gallery, Nohea Gallery and Fine Arts Associates. Island Glassworks, 171-A Hamakua Drive; 263.4527. www.islandglassworks.com

photo: Mu'umu'u Heaven
"I've always gravitated toward beautiful fabrics, and to conserve them and not waste them is so important," says Deb Mascia, owner/designer of Mu'umu'u Heaven, a line that turns 1950s-1980s mu'umu'u and aloha shirts into groovy skirts, accessories and pillows. Mascia moved to Hawai'i from New York with her husband. "We went from black and gray to Technicolor and an inspiring view." She finds her mu'umu'u at thrift shops and estate sales. Her skirts, which run about $69 to $120, have been snapped up by the likes of Eva Mendes and Amber Valletta. Shop online at www.muumuuheaven.com.

Roberta Oaks Power designs skirts, dresses and camisoles crafted from eco-friendly, recycled fabrics. A Missouri native, Oaks Power was a photographer and collage artist before turning to fashion design. "I have clients who are 8 years old, and I've sold to ladies who are 80 years old," she says. "I wanted to create fun women's wear that is not surf wear or extremely high end, a niche of something that isn't right off the factory line." Prices range from $40 to $200; shop online or find store locations at www.oakshawaii.com.

The deceptively simple and utterly wearable dresses and tops by Fighting Eel fly off the shelves at local stores as well as boutiques on the Mainland. In fact, Fighting Eel will soon be sold at Barney's New York. Not bad for a clothing line in only its second year of production, started by two friends, Rona Bennett and Lan Chung. The clothes are made from a Lycra blend that is neither too clingy nor too baggy, and the designers themselves serve as their own fit models, explaining why the clothes look good on normal, non-supermodel figures. Prices are $60 to $230; shop at Crazy Beautiful, Koko Cabana, Pineapple County, 99 Boarding Co. and Second Skin. www.fightingeel.com.

Producing sophisticated, elegant greeting cards with an Island feel, Time & Tide Design has found success in just two years. Charles Meyer, co-owns and co-designs the line with his business partner, Kay Yamaguchi. "I'm from here, originally, my family goes way back," says Meyer. "I love the old Hawai'i. It goes deep within me. The old photographs, the old feeling. If there's a way of portraying that in a design, that's what we're all about." The cards feature Hawaiian and English text and are $2.85 to $3, at Into, Island Treasures, Paper Rose, Paperie, several Longs Drugs, Native Books, Natural Hawai'i and Nohea Gallery.

For years, Kaua'i painter Doug Smith had been creating ABC plywood cutouts as gifts for his friends' kids. When he broke his ankle two years ago, his wife, Sharon, decided he needed something to occupy his time, and the Tropical ABC's Flash Cards (about $13) were born. The cards take an Island-style approach--S for surf; O for octopus--and each letter is accompanied by one of Smith's charming illustrations. What started as a small family project has blossomed. The Academy Shop, Honolulu Academy of Arts, 900 S. Beretania St., 532-8703.


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Honolulu Magazine July 2017
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