New non-profit wants middle-school students to ‘Reach the Runway’

Photographer_ Ross D. Hamamura - RDHphoto.net_94086

Photographer: Ross D. Hamamura –

A new non-profit organization wants to expose students to Hawaii’s unique fashion industry.

Applications are now being accepted for Reach the Runway, which debuts this year as the official non-profit of HONOLULU Fashion Week.

The annual event launched last year by HONOLULU Magazine and featured unique collaborations, runway shows, celebrities, stylists and a pop-up boutique, all of which, and whom, were either locally based or had strong local ties.

This year, two HONOLULU Magazine editors Stacey Makiya and Lennie Omalza wanted to involve students, specifically middle-school students, in what they say is becoming a richly diverse industry. So they started Reach the Runway.

Reach the Runway mentors


  • Robbie Dingeman, Editor, HONOLULU Magazine
  • Daniel Ito, Digital Media Manager, MANA Magazine
  • Lennie Omalza, Special Projects Editor, HONOLULU Magazine

Magazine Design

  • Warren Daubert, Creative Director, PacificBasin Communications Business Division
  • Janelle Kalawe-Ching, Art Director, MANA Magazine
  • Kristin Lipman, Creative Director, HONOLULU Magazine


  • Kerrie Inouye, Store Manager, Fighting Eel
  • Stacey Makiya, Senior Fashion Editor, HONOLULU Magazine
  • Brie Thalmann, Managing Fashion Editor, HONOLULU Magazine

Fashion Design

  • Allison Izu Song, Owner & Designer, Allison Izu
  • Rumi Robertson, Owner & Designer, Rumi Murakami
  • Joe Serrao, Owner & Designer, Salvage Public
  • Napali Souza, Art Director, Salvage Public
  • Sig Zane, Owner & Designer, Sig Zane Designs


  • Wilhelmina Hawaii, represented by President Ryan Brown


  • Karen De Borja, Owner & Photographer, Karen DB Photography
  • Tommy Shih, Owner & Photographer, Tommy Shih Photography

Hair & Makeup

  • Risa Hoshino, Hair & Makeup Artist
  • Kecia Littman, Hair & Makeup Artist

The non-profit will pair up to 21 students with mentors in seven fashion-related fields: journalism, photography, fashion design, magazine design, hair and makeup, styling and modeling.

“We want these kids to believe they can actually have an occupation in this field while living here in Hawaii,” said Makiya, who is the magazine’s senior fashion editor. “We also want to help build their ambition, talent and confidence, so they can achieve success no matter what career they end up in.”

“Middle school is a critical time for kids. They’re likely in a new school with new kids, going through physical and emotional changes. It can be a make-or-break time for students at that age, and they’re in dire need of more programs and opportunities,” Omalza said.

Students will meet with their mentors over the course of three months to learn industry skills and build portfolios. The experience culminates with a display at HONOLULU Fashion Week, which takes place Nov. 20-22.

Makiya and Omalza brought on more than a dozen professionals, including HONOLULU Magazine editors and art directors, fashion designer Allison Izu, makeup artist Kecia Littman, photographer Tommy Shih, and Wilhelmina Hawaii president Ryan Brown. They will also serve as mentors themselves.

All were carefully selected for their talents and ability to connect with students.

“Our mentors are established professionals who are known in their industries of expertise, and it’s very unlikely that the students we select will have had the opportunity to meet them otherwise,” said Omalza.

Reach the Runway is open to students who are enrolled in 6th, 7th or 8th grades as of April 1, 2015.

Applications will be accepted through June 30, and require the student to write a 300-word essay describing what Hawaii fashion means to him or her. Each field also requires the applicant to complete a specialized project that will be reviewed by mentors during the selection process.

While the experience is currently only open to Oahu students, Makiya and Omalza hope to one day expand the program statewide.

“Our hope is that (these mentors) can stay in touch, build a strong relationship and have them be available for advice or direction throughout the students’ schooling and careers,” Makiya said. “I think they’ll also be rewarded in the end and, perhaps one day, get that same gratification when these kids come back and present at HONOLULU Fashion Week… That would be the moment we know we succeeded.”

After the mentorships conclude, one student from each area of interest will win an ultimate HONOLULU Fashion Week experience, including VIP fashion show passes, a two-night hotel stay, transportation and more.

Click here for more information on Reach the Runway and how to apply.

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