by: Kamaka Pili
HONOLULU (KHON2) – As New York ramps up for one of the world’s largest fashion shows next week, a Native Hawaiian female designer from the island of Hawaii is packing her bags and finalizing her preparations as she’ll be hitting the catwalk in the Big Apple for the first time.
Sharayah Chun-Lai, owner of Ola Hou Designs, has made history in the Hawaiian fashion realm as being the first Native Hawaiian wahine to accept being featured at New York Fashion Week on Runway 7.
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After only being in business for two years, Chun-Lai got the dream call that every fashion designer hopes for and she said:
“I actually got an email and a call on Oct. 6 from Runway 7 and the director, she got in touch with me and she said, ‘we have been following you on Instagram, we have looked over your website and we love the prints and the story that you tell behind it. We have never seen anything like that before and we would love to have you tell your story on the runway.’ And I just broke down in tears.”
Chun-Lai drew inspiration from her grandmother, who she said was always fashionable and classy.
That inspiration led her to earn her degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Chun-Lai uses her designs to tell a story.
“My very first collection was the Aalii because that’s my daughter’s middle name is Aaliikumakani,” said Chun-Lai.
“And so, every time I do bring out a new design or a new collection, I always make sure to share that story so that people know what they’re wearing, and they truly are wearing a representation of my heart and my life and my family,” said Chun-Lai.
Chun-Lai and her Ola Hou Designs team, which includes 41 Native Hawaiian models, musicians and hula dancers, leave for New York this Saturday, Feb. 5.
They’re scheduled to strut down Runway 7 on Thursday, Feb. 10th at 4 p.m. HST.
The fashion show will be live-streamed.
“I’m very honored for this opportunity and just to be able to show the world that here in Hawaii, we can, we can do what everyone else is doing,” said Chun-Lai. “You know, I’m excited to be able to inspire and I hope I do inspire young women and entrepreneurs and designers that want to follow their passion.”
To give credit where credit is due, Chun-Lai will not be the only one from Hawaii who will be featured in New York Fashion Week this month. The brand Lotus & Lime will there be as well.
People can purchase online streaming tickets for Ola Hou Designs’ show online or purchase in-person tickets at Sony Hall.
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More information on Ola Hou Designs can be found on their website.
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