Old seats become new looks in a partnership between Hawaiian Airlines and a local fashion technology class.

By Michael Keany

When Hawaiian Airlines ripped out the old seats from its Boing 717 aircraft this past summer as part of an overhaul, those seats didn’t go into the trash, they got turned into high fashion.

Wanting to make the most of the pile of leather and fabric seat covers leftover from the renovation, Hawaiian Airlines reached out to the Honolulu Community College Fashion Technology program, and asked if they’d be interested in recycling some old material.

Joy Nagaue, professor for the HCC Fashion Technology program, says she didn’t know what to expect. “My first thought was that they had some leftover rolls of fabric that they used for their flight attendant uniforms,” she says. “When they told me it was a pile of old seat covers, I wasn’t sure what we’d be able to do with them, but I said, OK. Because it was Hawaiian Airlines, after all, and I don’t let any opportunity slip.”

After some thought, she decided to use the covers as fodder for a Project-Runway-style challenge: Three of her most talented alumnae would be tasked with transforming the seat covers into stylish pieces of clothing and accessories.

A tall order—the covers were bulky and still included all their original zipper and velcro hardware—but Chai Lim, Jacky Lau and Randy Oribello each tackled the project with enthusiasm, cutting the covers into even smaller pieces and reassembling them into items that include a bustier, a flared-skirt dress and a jacket.

The trio had only a couple of weeks to pull everything together, but the results are impressively creative. Alisa Onishi, director of brand management at Hawaiian Airlines, got a sneak peek at the HCC designers’ work this past week. “We’re really proud to be a part of this,” she says. “To see the seat covers, which we’ve used and served our guests with for so many years, to see them reimagined in such a brilliant way, and by local designers, too—it was really special for us.”

See more photos.

If you’d like to see the final designs, all of the flight-couture items will be on display at HONOLULU Fashion Week this coming weekend, Friday Nov. 20 through Sunday, Nov. 22, in the Hawaiian Airlines special lounge area in the Hawai‘i Convention Center. View the full schedule.


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