Extraordinary Voyages: Native Hawaiian designers partner with luxury fashion brand Valentino

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Three Native Hawaiian designers are partnering with luxury fashion brand Valentino to create a special textile pattern that will be incorporated with REDValentino’s ready-to-wear collection.

The collection, designed by Kēhaulani Nielson, Manaola Yap and Kini Zamora, will debut at the “Chelsea in Bloom” festival in London this September and the designs are expected to be sold at REDValentino’s Ala Moana store as well as online.

“It’s exciting to have our culture and art featured alongside some the most respected and famous fashion designers in the world,” Zamora said. “The opportunity to showcase our work at the Chelsea in Bloom Festival raises the profiles of Native Hawaiian designers as well as the growing fashion industry in Hawaii. Hopefully, this will open more doors for us internationally and inspire other young kānaka to chase their dreams.”  

The Chelsea in Bloom Festival features a renowned floral art competition, which includes some of the most influential international fashion brands. With the theme of “Extraordinary Voyages,” this year’s festival is scheduled for Sept. 20 through Sept. 25.  

“It has been a real extraordinary voyage towards appreciation and knowledge. Collaborating with Native Hawaiian creatives was not only a way to foster creativity, but also a means to raise awareness over a mesmerizing and intriguing culture; giving the right recognition, voice and the right meaning for a mutually beneficial exchange. Crossing cultures, meeting halfway to create a superb collaboration. This capsule collection is a dialogue made of common respect – a new language made of the traditional and the contemporary that can definitely be positive and enrich our souls,” said Alessio Vannetti, Chief Brand Officer of Maison Valentino.  

The collaboration between REDValentino and the Native Hawaiian community stems from a  controversy with the Italian fashion company’s Spring/Summer 2021 collection. In late February, the fashion brand released images on its social media of one of its new designs that featured a well-known Native Hawaiian ʻulu (breadfruit) quilting pattern, without acknowledging its origins. The Instagram post received hundreds of comments accusing REDValentino of cultural appropriation.    

In response, REDValentino reached out to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) to initiate a dialogue with the Native Hawaiian community. REDValentino also removed the ʻulu design from its online store, but left the Instagram post in what it calls the “spirit of transparency and accountability.”

“Involvement with this project is in part due to the goodwill of REDValentino in making things pono (righteous) with the cultural community,” Yap said. “It is important for us to not just take control of our own narratives as Native Hawaiians, but also to uphold the spirit of aloha when people want to make things right. Our ability to move forward as a lāhui is also in our ability to have these conversations and be a part of the solution. We are thrilled and honored to stand together with two other talented designers for the opportunity to share the cultural arts of Hawaii on a global scale.”  

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