For Manaola Hawaii designer Manaola Yap, fashion goes beyond the runway. It starts at home — in Hawaii — and is inspired by his Hawaiian heritage. His passion for learning about his own culture through anthropology, art, genealogy, and geography has helped mold him into the designer he is today.
“Culture is something that helps to define us,” said Yap. “It’s an interesting and never-ending source of inspiration.”
His main inspiration, textile art, is one that he grew up learning on the Big Island. When he started thinking about creating a fashion brand, it felt natural for him to use his knowledge in textile art and his bamboo stamping tools as a base to create Manaola Hawaii. The company’s mission of “protecting, cultivating, and sustaining Hawaiian culture” ensures that Hawaii’s indigenous culture thrives. But, how do we take indigenous culture and make it thrive in today’s oversaturated world?
“The only way to sustain Hawaii’s indigenous culture was to attach it to pop culture,” said Yap. “The biggest thing in pop culture, aside from food and music, is fashion. And fashion is what ancestrally I know.”
Making this connection has been Yap’s way of cultivating Hawaiian culture as an indigenous kanaka (person). He explained that just like our ancestors, it’s our kuleana (responsibility) that our Hawaiian culture is continuously cultivated to ensure its existence in the future.
“Putting this indigenous culture into fashion was the perfect fit for me to express myself as an artist,” said Yap. “Expressing myself as an artist is something that is so authentic and true to me, which allows me to live up to my destiny to make sure that my culture sustains the test of time.”
Yap’s passion to protect, cultivate, and sustain Hawaiian culture through fashion has lead him to many fashion runways in Honolulu, San Francisco, and now New York. He is the first Native Hawaiian designer to be featured at New York Fashion Week and was scouted by Oxford Fashion Studio in London after gaining attention during his Honolulu Fashion Week show last fall.
Fashion curators review thousands of profiles each year and choose only 26 designers to be part of the annual Fashion Week network, which holds shows in the four fashion capitols — London, Milan, New York, and Paris. Of the 26, just 10 designers are chosen to have their own show, which showcases a full collection of designs. Manaola Hawaii is one of the 10 to show at New York Fashion Week.
Manaola Hawaii will feature 18 models from Hawaii (or with Hawaii connections) on the runway including musicians Colbie Caillat, Justin Young, blogger Louise Roe, and The Descendants actress, Shailene Woodley. Hair and makeup will be by Anton Wilson and Allan Cool.
Manaola Hawaii’s fashion show will be on Friday, September 8 at Studio 450 in Midtown Manhattan. They will perform a hula noho (seated dance) with oli (chants). Keep up with Manaola Hawaii on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as they make their way through the Big Apple. Hawaii News Now will live stream the show on their Facebook Page.
All photos courtesy of @Manaolahawaii.