With his ancestrally inspired designs, Manaola Yap is bringing a new edge to island fashion.
It’s amazing to think that one of the buzzed-about brands in Honolulu over the past year was actually born in Kohala. But one has come to expect such surprises from designer Manaola Yap, who has turned heads with eponymous label Manaola—thanks, in part, to his runway showings. His recent Kōlani collection shimmered with his signature, geometic patterns in radiant browns and bronzes, punctuated with black. While the pieces were an homage to the ali‘i (chiefs) of times past, there was a clear worldly attitude. Short frocks exuded a ’20s charm, thanks to the use of frills, while other ensembles seemed like they would be perfectly at home on St. Barts or the Italian Riviera. A cosmopolitan but Hawai‘i-rooted vision is at the foundation of his aesthetic. “The most satisfying part of the creative process for me is the connection between culture and design,” says Yap. “I am always grateful when I am able to capture my inspirations and translate our cultural stories and traditions into modern-day fashion.” With such eye candy, it’s no surprise that his pieces are now worn by island recording artists and local scenesters.
And while Yap has made the move to O‘ahu for his business, he has learned the importance of staying connected to his home. “I have been returning home to Hawai‘i Island more often to regenerate my spring of inspiration,” he says. Another major touchstone is hula. (His ensemble Hālau Manaola debuted at the Merrie Monarch Festival in 2016.) “Hula helps me to troubleshoot, problem-solve and break down emotional walls to make room for new ideas, and allows me to be a vessel for creativity.”
With such resources, Yap is more than invigorated for the rest of 2017. Expect to see not just resort- and alohawear collections, but swim as well. And that’s not all. “As a culture-conscious movement, we are looking forward to sharing indigenous art on a global scale and are moving into Asia this year,” he says. Now, that’s a way of taking Hawai‘i to the world.
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