Ahola Project: Community Created Fashion as Art

Our campaign to promote upcycling clothes (think: recycle plus DIY upgrade equals less trash and global consumption) resulted in a partnership with Hawaii Fashion Incubator (HIFI) to bring you our community Upcycle Sewing Labs at The COOP.  Hanging around HIFI led us to participate in Ahola, a first-of-its-kind in Hawaii “Site-Specific Fashion As Public Art” project.

The Ahola project was led by Henry Navarro, Cuban born and Toronto based fashion designer and educator, who developed a unique process to mentor a team of community volunteers (no fashion experience needed!) to design and construct a line of garments that represent the culture of the place, and present the fashion pieces to the public.  Navarro has produced site-specific fashion art projects in communities around the globe, and each project is entirely shaped by its volunteer community participants.

During the month of June 2015, I joined Navarro and a core team of local creatives to brainstorm themes that represent elements of Hawaii.  Under Navarro’s training and guidance we designed garments, created patterns, and sewed using a variety of fabrics.

Some of our sketches for designs based on the traditional Hawaiian weaving of lauhala plants

Some of our sketches for designs we created inspired by the traditional Hawaiian weaving of lauhala plants.

It was a fascinating collaboration and I learned skills that I will share with you in future Upcycle Sewing Labs.  Make sure you are subscribed to our Positive Media Good News elist to get your invite to future events!

Sewing at the Hawaii Fashion Incubator's co-working space, the COOP, at Ward Village.

Sewing at the Hawaii Fashion Incubator’s co-working space, the COOP, at Ward Village.

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A look we created based on the theme lei.

After five weeks of working with Henry in the sewing co-working space The COOP, we started to feel like we had a mini collection of garments that reflected elements of our life here in Hawaii.  We invited volunteer community members to be our models, hired professional hair and makeup, and headed to Ala Moana Beach for a photo shoot.  Here is a short video I produced to capture a bit of the “making of” flavor of the project and present some of the final looks captured during the photo shoot.

The core Creative Team who worked with Henry Navarro to design and construct the garments were (alphabetically): Raina Grigg, Andrea Hambuchen, Nikki Nguyen, Yoana Stoyanov, Angely Andrade Vallarta, and Joy Waters.  We also had help from Chelsea Jaimee Tsuchida to produce the runway show as well as continual support from Toby Portner, co-founder of the Hawaii Fashion Incubator. Watch the video (above) to see our gorgeous local grown models in action and read all their names.

The Ahola team with mentor Henry Navarro, the six core creatives who worked on the garments, and our models we recruited from the community.

The Ahola team with mentor Henry Navarro, the six core creatives who worked on the garments, and our models we recruited from the community.

We showcased our one-of-a-kind collection with a runway show at Hawaii Fashion Month at an event at the Modern Hotel in their Study Hall Lecture Series.  We also had an article published about our project in Pacific Edge Magazine, called “The Ahola Spirit.”  Photographs of the final 18 looks we created can be found on the Ahola Facebook page.

Ahola article in Pacific Edge Magazine

Pacific Edge Magazine wrote an article about our fashion as art project called “The Ahola Spirit.”

Posted in Events
One comment on “Ahola Project: Community Created Fashion as Art
  1. Raina Grigg says:

    Hi Joy,

    I had just shared your link but realized the post ended up pushing your video down my Facebook page. I am not sure if my friends will watch Henry’s video but I felt his interview explains the project in the context of his work. I think the site specific stuff is really interesting.
    I hope you are doing well. Looking forward to seeing some images of the April 12 show. 🙂

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