October 24th, 2014 / posted by paularath

Bliss Lau ELLE full page

Honolulu’s own Bliss Lau, who has lived and worked in New York City since her college days at Parsons School of Design, is featured in the September issue of Elle magazine.  She’s referred to as a “Fashion Insider” and is partnered on the page with other hip and haute jewelry designers from all over the world.

The headline is “Glittering Globally” and the subhead is: “A new generation of up-and-coming jewelry designers is redefining cool with both sparkling creations and head-turning personal style”. That’s Bliss for you!

Bliss is simply fabulous!

Bliss is simply fabulous!

In other news from Bliss, her Kaleidoscope ring is featured in the current hit film “Gone Girl.”

You know, Bliss once told me that one of the smartest things she did when starting out with her handbag business (which preceded her jewelry line) was to hire a professional PR person. She said that’s usually among the first pieces of advice she gives to emerging designers: Hire the best PR person you can afford.  It has really paid off for her, as she gets excellent coverage in the fashion press.

Bravo, Bliss!

- Paula Rath

October 22nd, 2014 / posted by paularath
Fashion illustration by Louda Larrain

Fashion illustrations all by Louda Larrain

Fashion illustration is a skill that can be just plain fun. And you don’t have to be a fashion designer to enjoy it. Just loosen up and be ready to play!

Renowned textile artist Louda Larrain is teaching a half-day workshop on fashion illustration in conjunction with Hifi and HFM (Hawaii Fashion Month). Louda is a mentor in the Hawaii Fashion Exchange (HFX), Hifi’s recent membership initiative. (Learn more about her in my blog from yesterday. Just scroll down for a bit of bio.)

The workshop is suitable for aspiring and experienced illustrators and it’s designed to be intimate, so space is very limited.

Louda's work as it appeared at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC.

Louda’s work as it appeared at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC.

The Fashion Illustration workshop will be held:

Sunday, November 16

Noon to 4 p.m.

Hosted by Fishcake Gallery, 307 Kamani St. in Kakaako

Cost: $70 for the general public and $35 for HFX members

Register online at www.hawaiifashionexchange.com

The workshop will cover:

  • A presentation on fashion illustration history
  • A demonstration explaining illustration approaches and methods
  • Numerous drawing sessions with a live model, followed by a critique of each participant’s work
  • Exercises to communicate students’ fashion ideas through drawing

Louda illustration 2

I remember when I was a fashion student at HCC and I shared  my fashion illustration class assignments with my husband, Jerry, who is an orthopedic surgeon. It drove him nuts because the proportions are so wacky and, well, kind of outrageous and beyond Barbie. He would go on and on about how I just couldn’t draw that way because no one’s legs are that long, no one’s head is that small and, well…. no one’s proportions are like that.

Well, you know what? When it comes to fashion illustration, imagination reigns and reality flies out the window. We get to live in la-la land for a little while. Try it. I think you’ll have a blast.

- Paula Rath

Louda illustration 3

October 21st, 2014 / posted by paularath
A Louda Larrain creation.

A Louda Larrain creation.

Hawaii attracts more than our fair share of creative people. Sometimes they come here for vacation and never leave. Sometimes they dream of making a change to a life in Paradise – and one day they simply move. Sometimes they burn out on the biggies: New York, Paris, London or Milan.

Whatever the reason, we welcome them and, hopefully, nurture their creative energy by simply allowing them to be themselves.

Such is the case with a newcomer to Kaua’i, textile artist Louda Larrain. 

Louda’s story is quite amazing, a veritable fashion fairy tale. She was born and raised in Siberia, in Communist Russia. She studied at Moscow’s Fine Arts School and Textile Academy, then  taught fashion and textile design in Moscow and developed, in her words, “a personal way to make textiles.”

In 1996, at the age of 35, a single mother with a six-year-old in tow, she struck out for Paris.

It was a struggle at first. “I tried to survive in Paris by babysitting and still trying to do my textiles,” she said.

A Louda Larrain jacket.

A Louda Larrain jacket.

One day, as she wandered through a Parisian art fair, “I was dragged out of the crowd by a man who turned out to be Francois LeSage,” of the famous couture LeSage embroidery house which was purchased by Chanel a few years ago. LeSage asked her to provide him with some textile swatches, which he then showed to none other than Karl Lagerfeld.

Lagerfeld fell in love with Louda’s work and hired her for Chanel. “Overnight, I went from baby sitting to Chanel haute couture,” Louda said with a chuckle.

For ten years, Louda created her unique layered textiles for haute couture houses such as Chanel, Christian Dior, Thierry Mugler, Christian Lacroix and Emmanuel Ungaro and saw them worn on runways by super models such as Naomi Campbell and Stella Tennent.

In 2006, Louda made a move to New York City, where her garments were sold at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. She and her famous photographer husband, Gilles Larrain, became a vibrant couple in the NYC art scene, holding monthly Art Salons in Giles’ studio.

Louda has made inroads into other international art scenes with shows in Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo, as well as The Netherlands.

Now she’s living a quiet life on Kaua’i with GillesEver the innovator, Louda’s most recent fashion show featured “Foliage Couture,” flora and materials gathered in the rain forests of Kaua’i.

Louda said she’s ready to segue into the fashion scene on Oahu and share her expertise during Hawaii Fashion Month.

Watch the HFM calendar for a design-related workshop by Louda Larrain. There’s a lot we can learn from this fabulous fashion princess.

- Paula Rath

October 16th, 2014 / posted by paularath
Coral polyps shot by Shera Mercer.

Undersea shot of coral polyps . Photos by Shera Mercer.


Alohi Kai's artistic interpretation of coral polyps.

Alohi Kai’s artistic interpretation of coral polyps in a pendant and earrings.

This is as much a love story as a story about jewelry. When it comes to Shera and Joe Mercer, it’s impossible to separate the romance from the art.

It’s also about serendipity. A lot of things conspired to bring about Alohi Kai, a chic and elegant new jewelry line by Shera Mercer.

First, Shera had to meet Joe. Although they were both living and working in London, they met halfway around the world, while scuba diving in the Indian Ocean. Scuba diving is a primary passion for both of them, although personally they come from opposite sides of the earth and professionally they come from widely different fields.

Joe is a clinical pharmacologist  (although originally trained in marine biology) who was born and raised in Bath, England.  Shera is a consultant in social and health policy, whose  last job in London was with the BBC as head of customer strategy in a social care program for the  elderly and disabled. She was born and raised in Hawaii (Punahou class of  ’86) and previously worked in such far flung locales as Japan, Mexico, Seattle and Dubai.

One of several shark designs by Alohi Kai.

One of several shark designs by Alohi Kai.

Shera believes sharks are widely misunderstood by humans.

Shera believes sharks are widely misunderstood by humans.

Shera first began creating jewelry while a student at Punahou. She took jewelry classes there, as well as drawing and glass blowing. She also tried sculpture and ceramics, and loved every single art form. Then she went off to college  in Boston, followed by graduate school and travel. After school, consulting took over her life.

Jellyfish are another source of inspiration for Shera.

Jellyfish are another source of inspiration for Shera.

A box jellyfish for the wrist!

A box jellyfish for the wrist!

It was marrying Joe that brought her back to jewelry. The couple, who share all the excitement of newly weds, were married in England.

Joe said “My mother waited patiently for 50 years for me to get married and I wasn’t going to disappoint her by getting married anywhere else,” so a Hawaii wedding was not in the picture. But Shera wanted to have something tropical at their wedding, so she dusted off her silversmithing tools and cast silver cowry shells for each wedding guest as a gift to take home and treasure. This project, along with the couple’s shared passion for all things related to the ocean, rekindled her passion for jewelry.

Shera added semi-precious stones to make this shark sparkle.

Shera added semi-precious stones to make this shark sparkle.

Shera and Joe didn’t have to go far to find inspiration for their jewelry lines. Shera has been shooting spectacular underwater photographs for many years, in places as varied as the Maldives, Hawaii, England, Mexico and the Bahamas.

Shera really loves sharks and often dives with them. She longed to have a shark pendant, but couldn’t find one anywhere. Her first jewelry “model” was a shark. Shera firmly believes that sharks are totally misunderstood by humans. “It’s a privilege to swim with sharks and dolphins. They swim right up to us, and if they stick around with us, that’s an honor,” she said with unabashed glee.

Sea urchins also inspire designs by Alohi Kai.

Sea urchins also inspire designs by Alohi Kai.

Swimming with dolphins is a grand source of inspiration.

Swimming with dolphins is a grand source of inspiration.

Alohi Kai means “brilliant ocean” or “ocean brightness,” and it is  light that both feeds the ocean and enables man to experience what the ocean has to offer. It is also a portion of Shera’s Hawaiian name, which is so long and unpronounceable I won’t even try to spell it here.

Shera employs the labor-intensive wax casting method in creating her jewelry lines. She begins with one of her undersea photos, followed by a sketch. She then carefully carves and sculpts the figure in wax. Wax models are then cast in silver and some are made into molds. A single design can take her two weeks to carve.

Alohi oyster pearl

Although Alohi Kai jewelry has only been on the market for a few months, Shera has been prolific in creating new designs for the past few years. There are currently four collections:

  • Pelagic: sharks, dolphins, jellyfish
  • Reef: corals, urchins, oysters
  • Endangered: black coral, scalloped Hammerhead Shark, Hawaiian Monk Seal, Orange Cup Coral, Oceanic Blacktips and Lemon Sharks
  • Men’s (in process): sharks, jellyfish and, very soon, cuff links

Alohi fish

Shera is introducing colored gem stones into her line because, she says, "women want color."

Shera is introducing colored gem stones into her line because, she says, “women want color.”

Alohi Fish in Reef

Just in the course of our interview, I learned a lot of fascinating things about the ocean around us. For example, did you know that bubbles are not round; they are flat on the bottom? So Shera is creating a whole line of bubble-related pieces. Here’s the first:

A bubble pendant by Alohi Kai.

A bubble pendant by Alohi Kai.

Alohi Kai jewelry is currently sold at Riches Kahala in Kahala Mall and at Nohea Gallery in Ward Warehouse. Check it out online at www.alohikai.com

- Paula Rath


Alohi Manta Ray

Alohi Hammerhead

Alohi Kai’s hammerhead shark pendant.

October 13th, 2014 / posted by paularath

Sakraida Holiday Sale

Ready, set, shop!

Here’s an ideal opportunity to buy holiday gifts by local artists and artisans at really reasonable prices.

Nine talented friends have hui’d together for a pool party at the beautiful home of Linda Spadaro. You’ll find fabulous glass items, unique jewelry, small paintings, prints, note cards, handbags and ceramics. All are one-of-a-kind and of the highest quality.

Hope to see you there!

- Paula Rath