By Robbie Dingeman
Photos: Tommy Shih
Originally from ‘Aiea, Harold Koda’s work at the intersection of fashion and history has earned international acclaim, yet, as much as he loves fashion, he's not keen on shopping. Still, he agreed to let us pull him away from special appearances to take a look at the 50-plus shops in the HONOLULU Fashion Week Marketplace.
Koda brings an elegant authority to his career in fashion and has spent the last 15 years as curator in charge of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He is preparing to retire in January.
Here’s a sample of what caught his expert eye:
Koda admired the craftwork and the attention to detail in the handmade gemstone lariat necklaces from Bluebird Jewelry. And he took time to let owner/designer Jana Higa know what he liked, particularly an oxidized silver necklace with hematite.
"It looks casual, but it looks good. She does it with different beads."
Koda admired the versatile scarves, dresses and skirts of Noa Noa for their animated prints and the styling possibilities that allow women to customize a look that suits them best; and to change it from wearing to wearing.
“It really takes a creative type to play with your clothes,” Koda said. “These days, women like the bow pre-tied.”
He liked the earth tones himself but noted that he felt brighter colors would be more popular with the interesting prints which reflect a mix of Hawaiian, South Pacific and African inspirations
Koda told Salt Liko designer/creative director Matt Bruening that the soft drape of the fabric, bright colors and wearable styles appeal to him.
“This makes sense to me,” Koda said. “That looks great! Clear colors, body consciousness … sophisticated textiles can be done here.”
Gazing at the sea of signature reverse-print shirts and accessories, Koda shook his head. He recalled watching The Descendants with Mainland friends in New York and experiencing the surge of recognition at seeing the shirts in the movie as an authentic detail of life in the Islands.
“It’s such a code. It’s imprinted itself as a brand. It keeps updating itself, but remains true to its brand,” he said. He pointed out a backpack as a personal favorite.
Sig Zane Designs
Koda admired the quality of construction of the Sig Zane Designs aloha shirts he found in the pop-up shop for Hilo-based designers Sig and Kūha‘o Zane. He noted that the pocket fabric is matched carefully to the pattern of the fabric, which takes significantly more yardage.
"This is really hard to do," Koda said. "It's a simple gesture but an expense of production, and it's done well."
After looking around the marketplace, Koda saw the possibilities for Hawai‘i fashion to continue to evolve. “There’s room to grow and do something that isn’t kitsch or touristic, but authentic.”