Style & Substance

These successful women are known as some of the most fashionable in Honolulu. But it’s not the clothes that set them apart—it’s their understanding that style is a way to express themselves, both professionally and creatively.

Photo:  Linny Morris

Jasmine Tso

Sophisticated and classic, yet still fresh. “And feminine. At all times,” she laughs. “I’m not a tomboy by any stretch.”
DRESSING THE PART: Marketing and promotions director for Ala Moana Center, she regularly meets with fashion executives. “There is an image involved,” she notes. She also appears on KHON’s “Trend Watch” segment, airing every other Wednesday. She never repeats an outfit on television; loans from clothing companies help supplement her personal clothing.

 WARDROBE RITUAL: “I look at my schedule, who I’m meeting with. I imagine myself in the situation and think about how I want to look and feel.”

“I invest a huge amount into my skin and hair. People skimp on that, but it’s something you wear every day. I’ll break the bank on that stuff.”

WHERE SHE SHOPS: J. Crew-on-the-island, Neiman Marcus (for Cynthia Steffe and Nanette Lepore) and Forever 21.

PRUNES THE CLOSET: She edits every six months to a year. “I donate things that, realistically, I’m not going to wear again. In my job, I have to dress for the trends.” Once the trend is over, she moves on. 

FASHION ADVICE: “Decide if you like something before you look at the price tag.” A lot of women make the mistake, she says, and buy something simply because it’s on sale. And on the opposite end, an amazing item that you will wear all the time is worth a splurge.

Photo: Linny Morris

Valerie Ragaza-Miao

SIGNATURE STYLE: A chameleon. “For every occasion, it’s fun to get dressed appropriately and experiment with different looks, makeup and hair styles. I put a lot of thought into what I wear.” 
DRESSING THE PART: As the owner of the Valerie Joseph Boutique, she is in the public eye. She appears in the store’s ads and is very much the face of the brand. “I’m more conscious now of being put together, because people notice.”

WARDROBE RITUAL: “I plan the night before, then, in the morning, just figure out the makeup and hair.” For a formal event, she might plan at least a week in advance. “I think about the vision, the way I want to present myself.”

Make that closets; she has three in her bedroom. “I collect! My mom was a shopaholic growing up—lots of shoes and clothes. At a very young age, I started reading Vogue and got interested in haute couture. I love classic styles, rather than trends—lace, embroidery, European classics.” 

WHERE SHE SHOPS: Los Angeles, because she’s there about once a month on buying trips for the store. “As a retailer, I have to see and touch the clothes I’m buying.” Also loves scouting for vintage looks at places like The Clothes Chick. Favorite designers include Oscar de la Renta (“European classic and attention to details”) and Vera Wang (“beautiful draping and timeless”).


FASHION ADVICE: “Find a silhouette that works for your body type,” she says.  “Stick with what you love and don’t get too caught up with the trends. I try to encourage women to be adventurous.”


Photo:  Linny Morris

Christina Kemmer

Wearable art, influenced by a love of travel that began early. Her father’s job took the family all over the world. “I love experiencing new cultures and ideas, to go places I have never been to before.” She was recently in Shanghai, Rome and Minneapolis, and this month, she’ll explore Bali. 
DRESSING THE PART: Her position as president of Communications Pacific means she often has to transition—there’s day and evening; clients and community groups; influential leaders and social and cultural organizations. “I always think, “Am I being respectful for the occasion? I care enough about them and their issue to dress properly for it.”

WARDROBE RITUAL: “Getting dressed sets the tone for the day and addresses my artist self. It’s a canvas, influenced by mood and the elements. I get up very, very early. What is the wind doing? Which planet and stars are out? Then I meditate and make excellent coffee.”

MANAGES HER COLLECTION: Uses Chinese document boxes or cutlery trays to organize her jewelry by color. “It’s like a palette of paint,” she says.

WHERE SHE SHOPS: While traveling, she often picks up art or jewelry from the culture she is visiting. “I like to remember the experience and the gifts that the place gave me.” Often, her purchases are gifts for others. In Hawai‘i, she says, she finds Ethiopian, Nepalese and Tibetan pieces in, of all places, Hilo. “I like unusual things. I’ll stop in at a florist, I’ll check out a craft fair. I’m like a Bedouin that way.” She also likes the brands MaxMara and Sig Zane, and pokes through little boutiques in Rome, as well as in consignment and thrift shops. And, “I like what Shanghai Tang does. A cheongsam in leather is divine—the juxtaposition.” 

She is learning to box.

FASHION ADVICE: “Experiment, take a risk. You don’t need to worry about others. One shouldn’t confuse dressing well with ego. It’s about celebrating yourself, who you are and your thoughts.” 


Hair and makeup by Juliana Chaize.  For Valerie Ragaza-Miao, hair and makeup by E’jay Maldonado of Body & Soul.