May 18th, 2018 / posted by paularath

Ken Downing presents 2018 Runway Trends before an enthusiastic audience.

Neiman Marcus Ala Moana is celebrating its 20th year in Honolulu, and the first celebratory event featured none other than Ken Downing, the company’s Dallas-based Fashion Director.

Downing put together a polished fashion show that literally popped with color, shiny sequins, layers of silk organza, animal prints, cowgirl boots and piles of turquoise jewelry.

Short shorts were de rigeur for men, whether worn with blazers r bomber jackets.

Downing introduced the show with the observation that current trends are all about “The ’80s – all day and all night.” That said, here are some of the key trends he identified for spring 2018:

  • Biker jackets
  • Hot pink (for men and women)
  • Power pantsuits
  • Athleticism in all types of attire
  • Evening shoes for day
  • Animal prints of all sorts
  • Animal prints worn from head to toe
  • Polo shirts for men and women
  • Caftans
  • Cowboy boots with a feminine edge
  • Track suits as “the new leisure suit”
  • Logo mania

Downing donned casual denim for his runway rundown.

Downing espouses sequins for day, whether heading for Starbucks or the supermarket. Bored with “evening wraps,” he encourages women to wear a blazer or bomber jacket over their evening attire.

In order to make black work in Downing’s universe, it should be worn in layers, preferably in a mix of fabrics of varying weights. Italy’s Brunello Cucinelli is doing this in a magical way.

A layered cream confection from Brunello Cucinelli

This being a return to the ’80s, there must of course be shoulder pads. But these are not the shoulder pads we wore in the ’80s – they are a little sharper and, thank goodness, far less bulky.

Downing said he has been seeing aloha prints in every major fashion city, including London, NYC, Paris and Milan. He showed them layered with a range of jackets over them.

A trend I will always love: turquoise, and lots of it. Layered extravagantly, Downing showed chunky turquoise jewelry with caftans, jeans, bomber jackets and frilly frocks.

The show was flamboyant and fabulously fun, a treat for the senses.

  • Paula Rath




April 29th, 2017 / posted by paularath

Jerry’s art is an original watercolor, now featured on this permanent sign at the Zoo.

Okay, I admit it. I am a prideful wife.

I can’t help it. Jerry is one of those Renaissance men who can do anything. For 40-plus years he was a brilliant orthopedic surgeon. He was an exemplary military man who worked his way up to become a Colonel. He has excelled in many sports, including football, paddling, racquetball, tennis – and he nearly shot his age in golf last week. He is Mr. Fix-it around the house. He loves to drive, and even manages foreign places with foreign languages on the signs. He has great taste and always chooses beautiful clothes and accessories for me. He makes a mean Green Chile Stew.

And now he is a commissioned artist. He was asked to paint an image to go on the Honolulu Zoo’s Children’s Discovery Forest sign. It’s a lovely part of the zoo where indigenous plants are featured.

The sign offers educational opportunities for the keiki.

He added a human touch to the painting, with a woman making kapa and a man pounding poi in front of their little hale.

Painting a commissioned work is not easy, especially when it’s the first time working with a team on a first-time project with no history to guide you. But he created a beautiful and lasting educational tool for the Honolulu Zoo.

  • Paula Rath
March 23rd, 2017 / posted by paularath

Kalahari Bushmen and Women of Botswana with whom Jeff Gruber worked and studied. Titi is at center, standing, in the gray coat.            Photo courtesy Maureen Page

I don’t pretend to be a movie critic, but I do love movies and see lots of them.

So I just want to let you know about a wonderful movie that is playing right now at the Kahala Theatre. It’s called “A United Kingdom” and it’s the true story of the true love of Botswana’s (black) heir to the throne, who later became its first President, Seretse Khama, and his (white) British wife in the 1940s and onward. They suffered greatly for their love, and their love for their  country, then called the British protectorate of Bechuanaland. It became Botswana when it achieved independence in 1966, largely due to the efforts of Seretse Khama.

Through exile and family strife, this fierce couple won the backing of the Tswana people and Seretse Khama also managed to protect the mining rights to Botswana’s diamonds.

It’s a story of great courage and determination. And it’s one of the great love stories of all time, a love story that affected an entire nation and shook the British Empire to its core.

To this day, Botswana is a shining example of fairness, democracy and integrity to all of strife-torn Africa.

Jeff and Maureen Gruber with their dog, Tladi, in 1975     Photo courtesy Maureen Page

I have close ties with and many fond memories of Botswana. I lived there from 1972-73, just a few years after independence came to the country. During those years Botswana was surrounded by the hateful practice of apartheid. South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) were steeped in racial divides that completely separated black and white. And there, smack in the middle, was Botswana with its black President and white First Lady.

I was a pioneer for the Baha’i Faith and pioneers must work to make a living, so I worked for a tiny mimeographed newspaper called Puisano. We especially loved making it a front page story when someone was kicked out of the country for using the expletive “kaffir” to describe a black person. It was great when an Afrikaans woman used the term and was sent packing back to South Africa by a government and people that simply won’t put up with such prejudice.

Puisano was based in Selebi-Pikwe, a copper nickel mining town that no longer exists. I googled it and there is nothing but brush to remember it by. Where I lived, Mahalapye, is now a thriving town, thanks largely to mining and the railroad.

It was my great fortune to have known an American linguist, Jeff Gruber, and his lovely English wife, Maureen Page, both dedicated Baha’i pioneers for many decades and in several nations.

Jeff was an MIT-educated linguist studying the Khoisan Bushman languages of the Kalahari Desert. These are also called the “click languages” because many of the “words” are clicks achieved with the tongue making a variety of clicks against the roof of the mouth. This language had never been written – only spoken. Jeff was creating an alphabet so it could become a written language. He worked with a remarkable Bushman named Titi who was extremely smart and seemed to be able to do anything under the sun. He even saved me from a scorpion one night because of his amazing sixth sense of what was happening around him.

But I digress. The acting in “A United Kingdom” is fabulous, though quite understated. David Oyelowo plays Seretse Khama and Rosamunde Pike plays Ruth Williams. Please go see it, or stream it or rent it when it’s available. You will learn a lot of history and watch the birth of Botswana, now a thriving, safe and secure African nation. A nation, by the way, that is now lead by Seretse Kahama’s son.

  • Paula Rath



February 23rd, 2017 / posted by paularath

Puilaurens, one of the Cathare Castles

Today was one of those perfect days that will always live in my memory.

To begin with, the weather broke and it was a gloriously sunny spring-like day. We decided to take a drive and have a picnic in the direction of the Pyrenees and the Spanish border to check out some of the Cathare Castles.

On the drive, the atmosphere was so clear that we could see the snow-capped Pyrenees beyond the rolling hills and vineyards of the Aude region.

We drove past vineyard after vineyard and winery after winery – but none were open for degustation (tastings) during the winter. Sigh!

The Routes du Pays Cathare was simply beautiful, beginning with vineyard after vineyard, seguing into a dramatic gorge, then climbing about 2,000 feet to our first castle: Puilaurens.

We found the perfect picnic spot. Lots of picnic tables and a clear view of the castle – our preferred view, from this angle, provides dramatic light and shadow.

Jerry at our plein air watercolor “studio” at the foot of Puilaurens Castle.

We were the only people there, so we had absolute quiet and our own private time with this 12th century Cathare Castle. It was heavenly.

Here is what Puilaurens looks like from the road – a very different view and not nearly as interesting from a painter’s point of view.

Another view of Puilaurens, a Cathare Castle

The road was often a bit scary. It feels so unfinished, and like the cliff may come down upon you at any moment. Jerry is such a great driver, he took it all in stride.

It runs through the Gorge St. Georges and its towering canyon walls. So dramatic!

An unusual way to construct a road.

We then visited another castle, called Puivert. It was once owned by a wealthy landowner who kept his farm workers in quarters that looked like dark dungeons. While you can wander through more of this castle, it didn’t have the quiet beauty of Puilaurens. And, hey, it was crowded – there were four other people there!

A tower at Puivert Castle


Living quarters of Puivert Castle

It would be a wonderful vacation, especially for an artist or one who loves to hike and camp, to spend a week or two (or four) exploring the Pays du Cathare and the many castles and vistas it provides. We hear so much about Provence, but the Languedoc Region has its own remarkable charms.

Carcassonne is at the heart of this country and now Carcassonne has taken a little piece of my heart.

  • Paula Rath
February 23rd, 2017 / posted by paularath

My new French hair cut and the lovely woman who created it.

After a month of travel, my hair was looking a bit, well, tired. Too much growth caused it to droop, which in turn made me feel droopy.

So I simply couldn’t resist getting a French hair cut in Carcassonne. The Salon de Coiffure Michele Cazaux came highly recommended, so David helped me make an appointment and accompanied me to the salon to act as translator during the initial consultation.

An hour and a half later, I had a chic new look and a new friend. It’s amazing how women can have a meaningful conversation when they don’t speak each other’s languages. Such a great cross-cultural experience!

  • Paula Rath