Dispatch from the Road

Honolulu Fashion Idyll

by James Sturz

It's not all surfing in Hawaii. There's fashion, too. All photos by James Sturz.

Three winters ago, Contributing Koan Editor mused about the idiosyncrasies of Parisian haute couture after attending Prêt-à-Porter Fashion Week, alongside his much better dressed wife. As the world turns its attention to the next round of shows kicking off in New York and Europe this month, James reports from the warmer breezes of Hawaii and the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club in Waikiki, where he filed this special report from HONOLULU Fashion Week.

Hawaii Fashion Week video

HONOLULU, Hawaii – Behold, my self-portrait with the comely Hawaiians, surfer dudes all of them. That's Duke Kahanamoku, second from the left, the Honolulu native who popularized the ancient Hawaiian sport, introducing it in Australia and California alike. Surfing wasn't Kahanamoku's only sport. He was also a five-time U.S. Olympic medalist in swimming, plus a member of the 1932 U.S. Olympic Water Polo Team. Two from the right is Kahanamoku's younger brother Samuel, also an Olympic swimming medalist and surfing pioneer.

Hawaii Fashion Week surfboard model

You can't visit a fashion show in Hawaii without expecting at least one surfboard. That's Hawaii-born Victoria's Secret model Keke Lindgard wearing Malia Jones — herself a Hawaiian surfing champion and Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, now married to Hawaii Five-O actor Alex O'Loughlin. ʻAe, it gets incestuous, brah.

Hawaii Fashion Week parasol

Beware the perils of the sun. Suit and parasol by Honolulu-native Ari South, a 2010 Project Runway finalist, back when she was known as Andy South.

Hawaii Fashion Week formal wear

No, it doesn't actually get cold in Honolulu. Although you'd be hard-pressed to get the audience out of rubbah slippahs, as they're uniformly called here. Other uniform by Alison Izu.

Hawaii Fashion Week

From left to right, that's Maui-based Koa Johnson of Kojo Couture, Allison Izu Song, Ari South, Summer Shiigi of Ten Tomorrow, and Malia Jones, who took part in November's three-day, 11 runway-show spectacle at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu, once a stand-in for Sydney Airport in Lost.

Hawaii spammusubi

The convention center's lobby is a good place to buy Spam musubi (sushi rice topped with grilled Spam and nori) as a between-runway snack, although I didn't see the models eating any.

Hawaii Fashion Week

Sponsored by Honolulu Magazine, the longest established magazine west of the Mississippi, the third-annual show has yet to conquer the fashion world, if we're being honest. Surprisingly though, Honolulu is a shopper's dream for stocking up on cold-weather gear, including by Loro Piana and Moncler. But there's definitely also a Hawaiian look. Here it is by Manuheali'I (at left) and 'IOLANI Sportswear (at right).

Hawaii Fashion Week

A look at fashion for the whole family. From left, ensemble by Reyn Spooner, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year; childrens' looks by Manuhealiʻi; beachy ensemble by Manaola.

Hawaii Fashion Week

More looks from Noa Noa, Manaola, and Reyn Spooner.

Snorkeler and shark in Hawaii

Who doesn't cap an Oahu long weekend with snorkeling off the North Shore with sandbar and Galapagos sharks in 250 feet of clear water?

Group watches surfers, Hawaii

And a little more fashion and sightseeing on the beach?

Hawaii hakulei

Along the way, I indulged in some fashion of my own. I made this haku lei with the help of Meleana Estes and the team from Paiko botanical boutique. (Check out their new book, 'Ohi: How to Gather and Arrange Hawai'i's Flora.)

Roberta Oaks, Hawaii

I even shopped for an aloha shirt, after going through aloha shirt conversion therapy to bend my will to those of the masses and adopt their customary ways at Roberta Oaks shop.

Fried fish, Hawaii

I ate and drank. And swam and saw. This fried fish was a rice flour-fried snapper from the Surfjack's restaurant, Mahina & Sun's.

Dump no waste sign, Hawaii

This species of this fish, seen on a Chinatown sidewalk, is harder to discern.

Hawaiian bottle openers

Andrew Mau, who designed the Surfjack's wallpaper, also designed these bottle openers, which came in handy.

Surfjack Hotel

Built in 1961, and reopened as a hotel in March, the Surfjack oozes '60s Hawaiian beach-culture charm, with no shortage of swanky cocktails and swankified guests and locals sipping them in the lobby…or upstairs in the suites. The hotel's the jewel of Aqua-Aston Hospitality, which operates more than 50 hotels and resorts across the Hawaiian Islands and beyond.

Surfjack Hotel pool, Hawaii

I'll come again, even without the fashion. But for now, I'll send postcards home.


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