Rumi Murakami’s Dreamy New Design Collab is a Match Made in Hāmākua

Art and fashion fuse together in a collaboration that flaunts one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Natural Instinct
photos: harold julian; hair & makeup: louis scheer; floral garlands: jeff alencastre; location: honolulu museum of art spalding house


If you’re lucky, you’ll find a partner you’re meant to be with. And for local designer Rumi Murakami, that special someone was artist and filmmaker Laurie Sumiye. “When I met Laurie about a year ago, we were workspace neighbors at Fishcake. We enjoyed talking about things we liked and shared a lot of mutual interests,” says Murakami. “We even had the same screensaver on our phone!”


No, this is not an epic love story; this is about the perfect fit for a fashion collaboration. About six months ago, the artists were having casual conversation about the rainy, misty weather of fall and winter in Hawai‘i. Then something clicked. Why not create a collection together that truthfully embraces the beauty of the Islands’ unique seasons? Sumiye was finishing her art residency at the Box Jelly and Murakami just completed her Spring 2017 collection, so the timing was perfect.


Rumi Murakami Laurie Sumiye
DESIGNER RUMI MURAKAMI and Artist Laurie Sumiye


As the idea progressed, they discovered new commonalities, including a deep-rooted affection for the Hāmākua Coast on the Big Island. The heavenly hideaway would be the inspiration, and common thread, that would tie the collaboration together.


From there, things flowed seamlessly. Sumiye began creating whimsical watercolors of ‘ōhi‘a lehua flowers, wild mushrooms and light rainfalls, things she discovered when she explored the beautiful, lush, wild and rural Hāmākua landscapes. “After the watercolors were complete, I turned them into digital files, which allowed me to play with colors and arrange the scale of the patterns on the computer. It took about three rounds of back-and-forth discussions to land on the final designs,” Sumiye says.


Design sketches


To match the organic essence of the coastline and Sumiye’s art, Murakami stepped out of her structured, Asian-inspired silhouette routine and (literally) let loose. “The prints and brighter hues allowed me a certain freedom to create shapes that were more relaxed and playful,” explains Murakami. “There is a nod to alohawear and a throwback to the ’70s—flared pants, floaty maxis, patchwork detail and chunky wood jewelry custom made by another local artist, Joseph Pecktal.”


However, as separate as their roles were, there were times when the two relied heavily on each other to shape the bones of the project. “I really trusted Rumi to give me feedback on how the artwork would repeat and look best on the fabric, this being my first time designing textiles,” says Sumiye.


Natural instinct


As for Murakami, she depended on her other half for the digital printing process. “Laurie has experience in this area due to her art and design background. Since most local manufacturers won’t produce small runs, she found and met with a reliable source in California to produce our pieces. There was never a time when we had to fight for what we each wanted. We learned from each other and, honestly, had fun.”


After six months of exciting, adrenaline-driven work, late nights and early mornings—let’s be real, it wasn’t all waterfalls and rainbows—Sumiye and Murakami debuted their collection at the Hāmākua State of Mind fashion show in Kaka‘ako. With 26 looks spotlighting womens- and menswear, the designers accomplished what they set out to do—highlight their Island home, step out of their comfort zones and feel proud of the end result.


“I was surprised and blown away at what we created,” says Sumiye. “ I was like, ‘Did I really work on that?’’’


So, maybe there will be no wedding cake, but the designers vow to woo us with future projects. Until then, you can live happily ever after in Hāmākua style.


To see the complete collection, view the photo gallery below.


 Pieces available at or by appointment.