LIHUE — Sha Ali Ahmad, a fashion designer of international acclaim and co-owner and founder of Kauai Fashion Weekend, is on his way home from Miami, Florida.
But not before a stop at his second home — Kauai — where he will be joined by four Kauai designers in showcasing his latest collection AC ‘16 on May 7 at the Kauai Fasion Weekend at the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club Grand Ballroom.
“I love this island,” Ahmad, based out of New Dehli, India, said Monday during an organizational planning meeting of the Kauai Fashion Weekend planning committee. “I’ve been coming here since 2008 and always wanted a fashion event. The only things available were a few trunk shows at individual stores. This is not the proper showcase for fashion.”
During his stops, he became acquainted with Marynel Valenzuela who claims she always loved fashion — from the day she was born.
“He challenged us,” Valenzuela, who is the founder of Kauai Fashion Weekend, said. “That was in 2013, and in 15 days, we put together the first Kauai Fashion Weekend at the Aqua Kauai Beach Resort who was able to find us an open date. When the doors open to the catwalk on May 7, this will be the fourth straight year we have done this.”
Ahmad, whose work has graced celebrities such as Meghan King Edwards of The Real Housewives of Orange County who served as a celebrity model during the 2015 Kauai Fashion Weekend, and have been on the stages of some of the biggest pageants in the country, said his collection for this year is inspired, in part, by the tropical nature and lifestyle in Hawaii.
“I use a lot of floral and leaves, inspired by the tropics of my second home,” Ahmad, whose work can be found in fine women’s shops like Adriana Papeli, Niteline, Scala USA, Ashro Lifestyles sold in Macy’s, Dillards, Nordstrom and more, said. “This is a blend of India and the West Country.”
Reservations are still available for the dinner and show package which will start at 6 p.m., and the show only with the doors opening at 7:30 p.m. Online reservations can be done by visiting www.eventbrite.com. Vendor booths will open from 4 p.m.
Joining Ahmad’s signature brand, Ahmad Couture, Kauai designers sharing the catwalk include Chez Canterelle with Chanterelle Chantara, WB’s Top Secret with designer Wilma Bumanglag, Karlota’s Tropical Clothing and Accessories, and Kaikini Bikinis who recently was named a Small Business Administration Kauai awardee.
“An event like the Kauai Fashion Weekend allows people, both residents and visitors alike, to see local designs in a setting designed to showcase each piece,” said Sue Kanoho, director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau. “Fashion events like these elevates the opinion of Kauai to more than sun and surf. There are many people who want to take something back from Kauai that is different from the macadamia nuts, coffee, and souvenirs.”
Kanoho and Ahmad see the Kauai Fashion Weekend as the birth of a path outside tourism.
Support for the designers come from jewelry designers including Maui Divers, Grande’s Gems and Jim Saylor Jewelry, and photographers on tap for recording scenes include Charlie Valentine, Patrick Kelly, Keith Ketcham, Rebecca Lenarth, and more. Chris Jensen of Hawaii Stream will video the entire show, Kanoho adding that tapes from last year’s show has been instrumental in spreading word about Hawaii being a fashion destination to mainland writers.
Ahmad said joining the ranks of photographers, one of Florida’s acclaimed photographers, Natasha Curtis, is also scheduled to be on-island recording scenes around Kauai and the fashions for editorial use in a magazine.
“There is a showcase of potential opportunities which can be seen,” Kanoho said. “Besides growing into a fashion designer, there are opportunities in modelling, photography, social media, and more. These are avenues which young people can look forward to returning to. There are many who leave Kauai to learn more, and when they return, their knowledge makes the island a much better place to live. Fashion Kauai Weekend bridges the gap of Hawaii becoming known as a destination for fashion.”
This new path is reinforced when the University of Hawaii community college on Oahu added a fashion design curriculum leading to an accredited certificate, and Creative Industries Hawaii has opportunities available, including Fashion Design and its related fields, to pursue knowledge.
Desiree Duclayan-Parsonson of the KFW planning committee has already run into some of the obstacles in the growth of the fashion industry in Hawaii.
“This has been really rough,” the model coordinator and talent scout said. “Most of the local people are short in stature and the designers work their fashion for taller girls. The positive side is all five designers work for the same kind of person so if we find one, it works for all.”
Among the line of merchandise and material for fashion show, Ahmad arrived with a special creation for Kanoho who will debut the piece during the May 7 event.
“That piece is Electric Blue for Electric Sue,” Ahmad said. “It features 15,000 sequins, all hand sewn. Like other Ahmad Couture pieces, I go to the market and source from scratch. There are so many steps to get to the final gown. I do my own dying with dyes we create for the look we want. The gown for Sue, as an example, took five men under close guidance and direction working 10 days from 9 a.m. to midnight.”
Ahmad said he originally started out to become an artist, but it was tough to make money.
“While I was in college, I went to a fashion show,” he said. “That’s when I said, ‘It’s more fun to do with my hands.’”
Monica Kawakami, in charge of the Walk of Fame, said the evening will feature Men in Uniform along with live entertainment, Step & Repeat Banner for photos, door prizes, and a Mother’s Day flower auction.
Information: 634-7853, or email KFW@inkspot.com.