One To Watch

Tori Richard's new womenswear designer brings a fresh feel to the iconic island brand.

Womenswear designer Jessica Burgess at the Tori Richard design office.

While the name Tori Richard instantly conjures up images of the local design house’s iconic men’s aloha shirts, a staple among downtown Honolulu’s business set, few know that the company is, at its core, a womenswear brand. In fact, it was a desire to create sophisticated women’s resort wear that drove Chicago-transplant Mort Feldman, an apparel manufacturer, to launch the brand in Honolulu in 1953.

Looks from the Sumer '12 lookbook.

Pairing quality fabrics with bold, artistic prints, the women’s line was initially a hit, enjoying popularity well into the ’60s. Coveted by everyone from Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue to celebrities such as Lucille Ball, its success dwindled only in the ’70s and ’80s as attention shifted to support the brand’s burgeoning men’s collection.

The women’s division was re-launched in 2002 and ten years later is enjoying resurgence thanks to an influx of new talent. The team’s latest addition, womenswear designer Jessica Burgess, who came aboard last June, is a Pennsylvania-native with a resume that includes stints at Lilly Pulitzer and Shoshanna. Her influence can already be seen in Tori Richard’s Spring/Summer ’12 collection, Burgess’ first, which offers a refreshing balance of ease, playfulness and polish.

The Tori Richard boutique at the Pualeilani Atrium Shops at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort and Spa.

Under Burgess’ watch there has been a renewed focus on the contemporary. Now, alongside the brand’s classic A-line dresses are on-trend peplum tanks, maxi dresses and breezy, one-shoulder tunics. A stickler for fit, Burgess played with cuts, slimming silhouettes ever-so-slightly and raising hemlines just enough to infuse a little more modernity. She even cranked up the color dial with bright, poppy pairings and fun, unexpected combos. And all this is just to start. Keep an eye out for a ton of chic new styles, including printed capris, sailor shorts and asymmetrical skirts, to hit shelves in the next few seasons.

The full womenswear collection is available in Waikīkī at Tori Richard, Pualeilani Atrium Shops at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort and Spa, 808-924-1811.