Mu’umu’u Heaven pop-up in Waikiki

(From 4/12/2014) – Amanda Stevens

Mu’umu’u Heaven, a popular eco-chic boutique that closed its doors in Kailua, has opened in Waikiki as a pop-up until the end of June. The new space at T-Galleria is larger than a typical pop-up; it’s more of an exploratory exhibit, starting from the makai entrance of the mall’s walkway, extending to the mauka end.

I was impressed with the re-purposed beach hut, made from 90 percent recyclable materials — definitely in line with Mu’umu’u Heaven founder Deb Mascia’s commitment to sustainable island living. Inside the hut, there’s a nice mix of upcycled and updated dresses and some fun stuffed animals made from rubber and material. There also are t-shirts, accessories and vintage home accessories, plus a section dedicated to men’s aloha wear and Hawaiian art.

Speaking of art, you might remember that T-Galleria and Pow Wow Hawaii recently partnered to feature local artists and designers. Now, designer Yurie Okada and Tamara Rigney a landscape architect, florist and co-owner of Paiko, are among the local artists showcased at the space.

Although some of the items are at a higher price point than at the Kailua location, the pop-up supports local artists, and tax is included.

Here’s a look at the entire space from beginning to end




These are re-purposed doors from Punahou School.



Babauta told me that these animals are made from recycled rubber slippers.



Gold and ruby vintage glassware circa the 1970s.


I love milk glassware and dishes with its vintage country vibe


This wicker chair is epic and filled with pillows made from recycled aloha-themed material.


Olive green glass-ware circa 1960s-1970s.




These handmade ornaments can be given as gifts year-round, but they would look great on a Christmas tree.




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Student designs: UH Manoa’s fashion show

(From 05/06/2016) – Amanda Stevens

UH Manoa’s Fashion Design and Merchandising Program celebrated its 49th year with an impressive senior fashion show at the Hilton Waikiki Beach Prince Kuhio Hotel on Sunday. It began with the theme Axis — the intersection of lines creating a point of origin. Whether because of the creative vision of student director Jeremy Divinagracia or budget constraints, the B-formation floor-level runway was ambitious and a welcome change from the typical raised runway.

The Axis theme guided student designers in expressing their heritage and philosophies in their creations. Here’s a look at some of my favorite runway moments from the seniors.

Legacy by Ayaka Hosomi
Heritage was a strong element in Hosomi’s collection. I loved the surprise elements of a feminine open back paired with the classic structure and construction of her Japanese-inspired designs. The collection definitely conveyed the axis of beauty and tradition.






Mod Nouveau by Gabrielle Sanehira
This collection featured simple lines and was heavily influenced by Sanehira’s background in photography. Her garments incorporate sheets of exposed and processed film.





Jardin De Papillons by Asia Joan Mateo
There’s a definite 1950s romantic, elegant vibe to Mateo’s designs. Her first look was a crowd favorite with little flowers randomly falling from within the dress, trailing the models’ steps. Her design inspiration was a butterfly’s thorax and the contrasting delicacy and strength of its wings.






Mirage by Grace Tsubaki-Noguchi
Of all the collections, Mirage had the strongest sense of whimsy and lightness. Tsubaki-Noguchi’s architectural silhouettes contrasting with feminine prints and fabrics created a softness with an interesting edge.






Adaptation by Li Jin King
Last year I was impressed with King’s stingray-inspired junior design. This year she turned up the design heat with her sultry creations. I love how she incorporated a Roaring 20s flair with fitted Chinese cheongsam silhouettes. I’m also intrigued by the draping and juxtaposing Eastern vibe of her men’s designs.






The 2015 Fashion Production students definitely took the show to the next level. I can’t wait to see what instructor Cynthia Tsark does with her students next year in celebration of the program’s 50th anniversary showcase.

Here are more creations from student designers.

Axis – 2015 UH Manoa fashion show

Axis - 2015 UH Manoa fashion show

New Wave – Junior Designer Group Collection.

— Photos by Eric Baranda


Review: ‘How to Fight in Six Inch Heels’

(From 4/6/2014) – Amanda Stevens

HOW-TO-FIGHT-IN-SIX-INCH-HEELS-pic-4a_3Funny, super smart and thankfully, unpredictable. This tagline should be on the poster of the romantic comedy, “How to Fight in Six Inch Heels,” directed by Ham Tran. I had a chance to work with Tran on a project in 2006, the same year his film, “Journey From the Fall,” showed at the Hawaii International Film Festival. Back then, I would never have guessed that he’d work on a fashion romantic comedy, but we should all be so glad he did.

Kathy Uyen, who is an undeniable triple-threat in the industry, produced, co-wrote and starred in this film. The story begins in New York, where Anne (Uyen), a Type A, ambitious and rigidly organized budding fashion designer seems to have it all, and all planned out in two year spans — engaged for two years, career success two years later, than a baby two years after that. But fate has different plans when her fiance, Kiet (Petey Majik Nguyen), a Vietnamese businessman, breaks the news that he got a promotion, but has to spend three months working in Saigon.

While the pair are on video chat, trying to keep the fires of the relationship burning while long distance, Kiet accidentally falls and his laptop reveals a pair of high heels on his hotel room floor. Anne begins to cyberstalk Kiet, convinced he’s dating one of the supermodels he’s been photographed with and intent on tracking him down in person.

Once she gets to Vietnam, the movie picks up steam and her friend, Danny (Don Nguyen), a fabulous stylist and my favorite character, helps her to infiltrate the world of supermodels and fashion in Saigon. In the spirit of “The Devil Wears Prada,” there is an epic makeover montage, with shopping, make-up and the works. Danny teaches, and even tortures Anne into mastering the art of walking in six-inch heels, striking a pose, and even what not to eat.

There’s a good balance of laughter, light intrigue and sweet moments in this film, so you don’t have to be a fan of haute couture to appreciate it. Oh but if you are, you’ll be in fashion heaven.

It’s playing this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. at Dole Cannery Theatres, as part of HIFF’s 15th Annual Spring Showcase.

Our new Miss HI Teen USA & Miss HI USA

(From 11/24/2014) – Amanda Stevens

Kitty Wo (mother of Emma), Emma Wo - 2015 Miss Hawaii USA, Kyla Hee - 2015 Miss Hawaii Teen USA, and Luana Alapa (former Miss Hawaii and mother Kyla)

Kitty Wo (Emma’s mother), Emma Wo – 2015 Miss Hawaii USA, Kyla Hee – 2015 Miss Hawaii Teen USA, and Luana Alapa (Kyla’s mother and former Miss Hawaii 1987)

Emma Wo was crowned the new Miss Hawaii USA, while Kyla Hee captured the Miss Hawaii Teen USA title on Sunday at the JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort & Spa.

The 24-year-old Wo, a PR account executive and model, is the daughter of Kitty and Buzz Wo, (local business leaders and philanthropists). She also won the Miss Hawaii Teen USA 2008 pageant and will represent Hawaii at the next Miss USA pageant. She aspires to own her own PR and marketing firm specializing in fashion.

The 17-year-old Hee, who will represent Hawaii in the next Miss Teen USA pageant, is a student at Mid-Pacific Institute and would like to become an actress and entrepreneur. Her parents are Mark Hee, and Luana Alapa who won the Miss Hawaii crown in 1987.

We had a chance to chat with the new title holders:

Emma Wo during the swimsuit and evening gown competitions.

Emma Wo during the swimsuit and evening gown competition at the JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort & Spa. Photos courtesy of Dale Mills.

When did you know you wanted to compete for this pageant?
Wo: When I was Miss Hawaii Teen USA in 2008 I knew back then that I wanted to do what I could to give back to the community, and one way to reach even more people is to become Miss Hawaii USA someday.

Hee: Up until recently, I didn’t think this was for me. My confidence wasn’t there, and it could have been because of my dyslexia; I thought I wasn’t good enough. But prepping for this has given me newfound confidence, and I feel like I am really becoming the person that I was meant to be.

Kyla Hee during the swimsuit and evening gown competitions.

Kyla Hee during the swimsuit and evening gown competitions. Photos courtesy of Dale Mills.

Besides winning the title, what has been the best part of your experience?
Wo: It has been my family, no doubt. I couldn’t have done this without them. They’ve been there for me through everything, from the time I competed for this title two years ago, they’ve helped me emotionally, financially and mentally. I’ve also enjoyed growing with the other contestants and have made many new friends.


IMG_1660Hee: My family. I couldn’t have done this without them. They have calmed me down when I needed their strength. They’ve supported me and helped me to be more confident and to believe in myself. I also loved that two of the other contestants were my friends from middle school. It was great to spend time with them, and make new friends.

A little about the 2014 title holders…

The outgoing Miss Hawaii USA Moana Hara is no stranger to competition, prior to winning the 2014 title, she was Hawaii’s Most Outstanding Teen in 2007. Since then she has gone on to model locally and internationally. She continues her community service raising awareness about dyslexia.

The outgoing Miss Hawaii Teen USA Mariah Gosling is an avid runner and a former high school valedictorian who aspires to be an orthopedic surgeon. She will continue her studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.


Confessions of a ‘Walking Dead’ addict fashionista

(From 10/31/2014) – Amanda Stevens

You don’t have to be a fan of horror, Halloween, or even a guy to be obsessed with AMC’s cult post-apocalyptic television series, “The Walking Dead.” But before I obsess, here’s a little background: the television series, developed by Frank Darabont, is based on the comic book series of the same name by Robert Kirkman. So, okay I admit it, I came late to the party. Unlike some of my diehard friends, I wasn’t glued to the TV every Sunday night since it premiered exactly four years ago on October 31, 2010.

But this summer I thought I’d give it a try on Netflix, and after two episodes, I became a full-blown Walking Deadhead. I literally finished off four seasons in less than one month. Now, I too am stuck to the TV on Sunday nights waiting to see what’s next.

So my favorite character has to be Michonne, played by Danai Gurira. The character is dark, twisty, carries a katana and seriously kicks Zombie butt. I’m so obsessed with her character that I outfitted the Goodwill Kaimuki windows (I volunteer to do visuals once a month) with a creepy theme that only “Walking Dead” fans would recognize.

Here are the top five reasons why women love “The Walking Dead.”

1) For the most part, women are not victims or reduced to being the moral compass of the show. They are tough, complicated, smart, and yup, sometimes fully irritating, but the characters are so rich and realistic.

2) The lack of sexual violence against women. Unlike other popular dramas, WD has been good about steering clear from this kind of graphic violence. There’s been story lines that alluded to it, but it hasn’t really gone there.

3) It can be very romantic – post-apocalyptic love can be a beautiful thing. The romance between Glenn and Maggie adds the perfect amount of humanity and hope for the series.

4) Man eye-candy – seriously, sorry but not sorry. Officer Rick Grimes and anti-hero Darryl Dixon have legions of female fans who would literally riot if they got killed off.

5) The writing is tight, consistent and smart. Women love a good mystery and a great story line. This show is definitely not just about zombies; in fact, the humans are a lot more dangerous.

If you haven’t already been “infected,” I dare you to watch just two episodes. You’ll see.

‘Pitch Perfect 2’: still charming

(From 5/15/2015) – Amanda Stevens


The 2012 a cappella surprise hit, “Pitch Perfect,” was true to its title, literally pitch perfect. So needless to say, I knew going into the sequel that it would be hard to live up to the first flick, but the previews seemed “aca-hopeful.”

In the first scene, you’ll see that the Barden Bellas have been on top of their game for three years and have reached the point of distinction; performing in front of a huge audience including the president and his family. Things go terribly wrong when Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) rips her spandex bottoms during an aerial silk performance, mooning the audience and shaming the Bellas, who are subsequently barred from touring and defending their title at nationals.


What didn’t work:

Although funny to the bone, Wilson delivers all-too-predictable one liners that keep coming and coming, until you get anesthetized to her skanky jokes.

The quirky, semi-dark and likeable heroine of the first flick, Becca (Anna Kendrick), got on my nerves a bit; her jokes were played out, and there really wasn’t that giant moment of redemption scene that I saw in the previews. Unfortunate editing decision.

The end was a bit disjointed; it felt like one or two scenes got cut, again, which really affected the film’s crescendo.

There wasn’t enough of Jesse (Skylar Astin). The chemistry between Becca and Jesse was strong in the first flick, and it would have been great to see more of the couple.


What worked:

Das Sound Machine, the uber tall, arrogant German a cappella troupe that dresses like SNL’s Sprockets killed it.

The battle in the basement. The mash-ups were not only an homage to the 1990s, but there was enough current hits that kept every generation in the theater rocking.

Elizabeth Banks was stellar as the raw but classy commentator, and did a good job in her major motion picture directorial debut.

Becca’s boss, the no-nonsense, high-strung music producer who can’t get anyone’s name right played by Keegan-Michael Key.

The final performance, “Flashlight.” That’s all I can say without giving away too much.


Do I recommend it?

Die hard “Pitch Perfect” fans might see past the hiccups, or perhaps they’ll concur with me and be a bit disappointed given all of the hype. But I must say it’s still worth seeing on the big screen.

Fashion producer Lynne O’Neill rules the runway

(From 4/17/2014) – Amanda Stevens

thumbWhen you hear the term, New York Fashion Week, the first thoughts that may come to mind are haute couture, international designers and top models. Perhaps you should add another to that list — Hawaii’s own Lynne O’Neill. Her career spans more than 30 years of runway show production in New York.

O’Neill’s reputation as a New York Fashion Week producer is so epic that Margaret Cho played a colorful version of her in an episode of “Sex and the City” titled, “The Real Me.” If you’re a fan of the show, that’s the episode when Carrie Bradshaw takes a spill on the runway. Now, back to real Lynne, who produces between 14-17 fashion shows per season during each New York Fashion Week through her company, Hula, Inc. Her clients have included BCBG Max Azria, Behnaz Sarafpour, Herve Leger, Vivienne Tam, Tommy Hilfiger and Catherine Malandrino, to name a few.

O’Neill’s career expands beyond the runway — launching events for The Rolling Stones and Usher, and consulting for CW’s “Gossip Girl,” Bravo’s “The Fashion Show” and “Sex and the City: The Movie.” All of this, and she’s still super humble and has a heart for Hawaii fashion.

I remember in 2012, following a viewing of the movie, “The Tents,” O’Neill addressed a room of fashion enthusiasts and passionately shared that Hawaii is ready to host a fashion week of its own. Fast forward two years later and not only are we approaching the second annual Hawaii Fashion Month, but O’Neill is the first mentor to sign on to Hawaii Fashion Incubator’s Hawaii Fashion Exchange (HFX), a platform to provide opportunities and connections for participants of November’s Hawaii Fashion Month.

As part of HFX, O’Neill will host a workshop in Honolulu on Saturday, April 26 for established and aspiring fashion show producers. The intensive workshop will cover venue planning, stage design, show choreography, model selection and more. Workshop participants will visit venues to learn and practice production skills. The workshop fee is $50, all of which can be applied toward a membership in HFX, which launches later this year. This class should fill up quickly. For more information or to register, visit

“Hawaii will always be home, and I’m so grateful to be able to share my experiences and knowledge with established and emerging fashion professionals here,” O’Neill said. “Hawaii Fashion Month offers a unique opportunity for anyone interested in fashion to gain hands-on experience in their area of interest. I am honored to be able to help move Hawaii fashion forward.”

Workshop by Lynne O’Neill

Workshop by Lynne O'Neill

Photos courtesy of Lynne O’Neill