Stylish Secrets: How Manaola Yap Gets His Fashionably Creative Groove

Beyoncé, family-first and his cultural roots all factor in.


We’re dying to crack the code behind how Manaola designer Carrington Manaola Yap gets his style savvy. With an enviable eye for high-drama silhouettes and standout prints inspired by traditional Hawaiian art, he’s got the culturally-conscious-creator-meets-modern-fashion-maven mode down. What powers his aesthetic, though? And how can we follow suit?


We picked his brain with some key questions that probe how and why he does what he does—and things got deep. Here are some of our takeaways of how he makes his fashionable creations so meaningful.


Talk about chic wise.


Fashion and art are so much more than clothes or things.

Lei Chic: What can we expect to see on the runway at this event?

Manaola Yap: [Our brand] strives to reintroduce the spirituality of fashion through the understanding that our bodies are a house for the spirit, and how we adorn it both attracts and radiates energy.


You don’t need to look far for inspiration …

LC: Who is your style icon?

MY: My mother, Nani Lim Yap, who is a kumu hula and my greatest inspiration.


… but don’t exclude the possibility for exceptions, either.

LC: What celeb would you most love to see in Manaola?

MY: Beyoncé.


Home is always where the heart is …

LC: Where do you feel most inspired?

MY: On my home island, Moku o Keawe, because it centers me and is so full of life.


… especially when you consider heritage and roots. There’s so much beauty in who you are!

LC: What goes into each Manaola piece?

MY: I use a traditional Hawaiian stamping method that was used to adorn kapa, known as ʻohe kāpala. I create original prints inspired by Hawaiʻi and Hawaiian culture from repetitious patterns found in nature, and hand carve these prints onto bamboo laths. I then stamp and digitize my prints onto fabrics like cotton, rayon, linen and silk, which become the fabrics I use to design clothing, accessories and home goods.


Mental walls are a real problem. Find your personal antidote and stick with it.

LC: How do you get over creative mental blocks?

MY: I dance hula or choreograph. Making the connection to time and space always helps to ground and refocus my body, mind and spirit.


Don’t compromise your vision for ordinary expectations …

LC: Who is the ideal customer for whom Manaola pieces are designed?

MY: Individuals who are unafraid to stand out and be bold in their fashion choices. Individuals who appreciate cultural artistry and luxury design.


… and stay focused with your values.

LC: Where will Manaola be in five years?

MY: I hope to continue designing and expanding our culture-conscious movement into other markets to showcase these ʻohe kāpala prints in home interiors, sportswear, etc.


If being an artist and creator is in your blood, it’s the first and second choice.

LC: If you weren't designing in this life, what would your career be?

MY: Interior designer.


Don’t be afraid to mix things up.

LC: What is the story you are trying to convey in your HONOLULU Fashion Week show?

MY: As the name implies, Kōlani refers to belonging to royalty. This collection is what I would imagine Hawaiian royalty to wear in today’s time. If our monarchs still existed, how would they bridge the gap between Hawaiʻi and pop fashion culture on a royal scale? Imagine if our princess were going to spend a day poolside, what would she wear?  If she went to Paris? New York? Dubai?


And, finally—support fellow creatives!

OK, that’s from us, not him, but we couldn’t resist.


Shop Manaola at the HONOLULU Fashion Week Marketplace Thursday, Nov. 10, 5–9 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 11, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Saturday, Nov. 12, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. And, check out his latest collection in the Live Aloha show happening Friday, Nov. 11 at 4 p.m. Tickets available here.