July 5th, 2018 / posted by paularath

A navy GORDON mini by Leah Redmond      Photo by Elisa Chang

When my son, Duncan Graham, was a student at Punahou, he had a close cadre of friends who were artists of one sort or another: film makers, writers, photographers, musicians, actors, you get the picture. In the group was Leah Redmond, a young woman with a lot of style. I always enjoyed checking out what she was wearing and how she put it all together. And I wondered if she would choose fashion as a career.

I lost touch with Leah, although I had heard she was in New York City, working as a dresser in the theater. (More about her fascinating career path in my next blog.)

Now Leah has given up the glam and glitter of Broadway and is living in Los Angeles. And, happily, she has introduced her first fashion line, called GORDON.

Photo by Elisa Chang

GORDON is clearly a nod to Leah’s small kid time in Hawaii. The line is 100 percent palaka! She has, in essence, modernized palaka for today’s woman.

Inspired by the silhouettes of the ’60s, GORDON dresses resonate with me. And, of course, remind me of my designing days when I did a line of palaka shorts, tops, dresses and muumuus.

The introductory line is all about simple, easy to wear, go-to palaka dresses. It’s minimalism personified, largely inspired by Leah’s passion for Japanese designers. (Think Yohi Yamamoto and Comme des Garcons.) There’s a common thread here, as palaka in Hawaii was originally worn largely by Japanese workers in the sugar and pineapple fields, and it was popularized by the Arakawas, a local Japanese family.


GORDON dresses are perfect for Hawaii weather.        Photo by Elisa Chang


GORDON dresses accessorize beautifully and can be worn many different ways. I ordered a GORDON mini in black and red palaka and sometimes wear it with ballet flats and a fedora with my father’s feather lei. Or with a pair of strappy sandals and an armful of chunky bracelets. Or with capri-length leggings and red lace-ups. It’s so versatile!

As a designer, I appreciate all the work and attention to detail Leah employs. Seams are bound. Plaids are matched. Pockets are palaka lined. Sleeves are engineered so that when you roll them up, they stay. She’s such a perfectionist!


Designer Leah Redmond with a rack of GORDON dresses with contrasting white yokes. Photo by Carrie Gifford


Each GORDON dress is made to order. “GORDON’s objective is to limit quantities and promote minimalism, allowing customers to invest in a few multifunctional pieces that can be worn in many different ways, rather than consume fast fashion by mass manufacturers,” Leah explains.


GORDON dresses come in navy, red, black and gray palaka, all one shade or a combination. Photo by Simone White


You are probably wondering how GORDON got its name. Leah explained that “Gordon” is British slang for “nerd” or “awkward” and “I love the symmetry of the name visually.”

Find GORDON dresses, and a way to order them, at www.shopgordon.co

-Paula Rath





July 2nd, 2018 / posted by paularath

Hawaii’s Project Runway participation in past seasons has been outstanding. Jay Nicholas Sario, Ari South and Kini Zamora have all made us proud.

Over the years, both Honolulu Community College and U.H.-Manoa fashion programs have produced a lot of talent.

I am kinda out of the loop with the student scene now. And I don’t always keep up with the up-and-coming designers in our community. Who will step up to show Project Runway viewers what we’ve got?

If you know someone with the talent, drive and strength of character to survive this often scary pursuit, please let him or her know about the casting call for Season 17.


-Paula Rath

June 23rd, 2018 / posted by paularath

If I were asked to choose Hawaii’s most iconic fabric, I would pick palaka.

Palaka is our signature plaid, much like a tartan is for a Scottish clan, but palaka is available to anyone.

According to “The Art of the Aloha Shirt” by DeSoto Brown and Linda Arthur, palaka was first seen in Hawaii on 18th century sailors from Europe. The sailors wore loose-fitting shirts called “frocks,’ that were made of sturdy, heavy cotton woven in white and navy blue.

Palaka is a Hawaiianized version of the word “frock.”

Palaka became popular during plantation days, when it was used for shirts, skirts and aprons. The fabric became especially prized because it was sturdy enough to protect the workers from the sharp, and sometimes treacherous, cutting edges of sugar cane and pineapples. Its durability was highly prized, much in the way denim was prized among the work force in California around the same time.

Author and textile historian Barbara Kawakami writes: “By the end of the nineteenth century, as immigrants came to Hawaii and worked in the fields and mills, the use of palaka spread because of its durability, coolness and design. The palaka shirt and palaka jacket were garments commonly worn by plantation workers of Portugese and Hawaiian ancestry. The earliest documentation of palaka shirts and jackets occurs in pictures from 1895 to 1900.”

Hawaiian paniolo (cowboys) began wearing palaka garments for their rough ranch work and by the 1920s and 1930s, palaka became a household word.

By 1930, Kawakami writes, “palaka had become closely identified with the local population.”

I remember when Arakawa’s General Store in Waipahu was the primary purveyor of palaka garments. During the ’70s, palaka became quite the fashion statement and I think it was around then that Arakawa’s introduced  other colors, such as red, green, pink, purple, yellow and black. The iconic store closed long ago and now Kaimuki Dry Goods has the best selection of palaka, in a wide range of colors.

Kaimuki Dry Goods on 10th Avenue in Kaimuki carries high quality palaka in many colors for $10 a yard.

Nowadays, palaka is made of durable cotton twill which has the added benefit of breathe-ability, a distinct advantage in our tropical climate.


Palaka goes purple in this cute bucket hat by RYP Designs of Honolulu.

Palaka is no longer limited to shirts and jackets. RYP Designs incorporates palaka into their accessories, quilts and yoga-related products.

RYP’s yoga meditation quilt.

Palaka visor by RYP Designs

Island Slipper often makes palaka rubber slippers, and I can vouch for their sturdiness and longevity – I’ve had a pair for more than eight years!

For his Spring-Summer 2018 Collection, island designer Kini Zamora featured palaka in new ways. Zamora put a decidedly personal twist on Hawaii’s iconic fabric when he actually used a palaka-like plaid that looks like it was stretched on the loom. He also includes a few palaka pieces in his current collection, such as men’s pants and a fanny pack.

Top by Kini Zamora    Photo courtesy www.kinizamora.com


Couture designer Stefano Pilati prizes palaka too! Featured in Vogue magazine.

Even high end European designers have adopted palaka in their collections from time to time. Stefano Pilati created a chic red-and-white palaka skirt in his collection for Agnona several years ago. The stylish skirt features welt pockets at the hip and a clever panel of diagonal palaka to give it extra kick.

Watch paularath.com for a hot new designer, Leah Redmond, a Punahou grad living in L.A., who has created a fabulous line of garments made entirely of classic palaka.

  • Paula Rath


June 20th, 2018 / posted by paularath

Detail from my Mao Mam vest    Photos by Jerry Mayfield


There was a collective sigh of sadness when Tapestries closed after its 25-year storied stay at Ala Moana Center. Tapestries was, after all, one of the few local stores that remained in Ala Moana, and owner Lori Doo Wong is a respected and appreciated buyer and retailer who really understands her customers.

Now Lori is doing retail in a new way and with a new partner: Chie Okada Otto of Hawaii Kai. They have opened Tapestries Studio Online (www.tapestries-studio.com) and are now offering occasional trunk shows. Please follow my blog for dates and locations of the trunk shows.

Mao Mam cotton vest with ruffled collar and chic details

While many readers will know Lori’s name, Chie’s may not be as familiar. She has always worked behind the scenes.

Chie has been in the fashion business for quite a few years now, first as a sales rep for Kinu, a chic and sophisticated line based in Japan and made in Thailand. Now she is designing and collaborating with Lori on three lines: You-Be, Mao Mam and Mona Lisa.

Mao Mam dress with lots of little design surprises. This is my go-to dress these days!

Each of the lines has a different aesthetic and character, but I think they all work superbly in Hawaii.

Mao Mam, which is made in Thailand, is highly original and, well, just fun to wear. There are lots of little appliques, trims, mixed prints and hidden pockets. These are clothes that catch the eye. They are made of a sturdy but light cotton that adapts to the interesting silhouettes extremely well. Look for clever collars and necklines, unexpected sleeves and unpredictable hemlines.

I love to wear my Mao Mam dress with black leggings that come just below the knee and chunky bold jewelry such as a wood ebony bracelet.

Cowl necks are a signature design detail for You-Be.
Photo courtesy of Tapestries Studio Online

You-Be features simple lines with bold prints in airy crinkle cottons and cotton knits. Although made in Thailand, this line has a Japanese aesthetic due to Chie’s original prints. So cute with jeans or leggings and stacks of beads or a flowing scarf.

Mona Lisa features some stunning prints.   Photo courtesy of Tapestries Studio Online

Mona Lisa, made in India, features playful prints and tropics-friendly fabrics. These are the tops you will wear practically every time you go out, whether to Whole Foods, the mall or your favorite coffee house.

How cute is this design detail on the back of my Mao Mam vest?

Tapestries Studio Online is currently celebrating the kinder, gentler side of the USA by featuring all their red, white and blue garments. Be sure to subscribe to paularath.com so you don’t miss announcements of upcoming events and collections at Tapestries Studio Online.

Next up right here: That long-awaited story on palaka in Hawaii and a surprising new fashion line out of L.A. that’s entirely inspired by Hawaii’s own palaka.

  • Paula Rath
June 1st, 2018 / posted by paularath

Love at first sight in Uniqlo

Uniqlo is one of the few chain stores I shop in when on the mainland or abroad. Usually I seek out local designers and boutiques that are unique to the destination, but with Uniqlo, well, I love so many things about them, especially their collaborations.

Remember when Uniqlo and Iolani Sportswear, the Kawakami family-owned iconic Hawaiian attire company, collaborated on some updated Hawaiian prints? It was an outrageously successful collaboration. And Lloyd Kawakami said Uniqlo was great to work with.

A current Uniqlo collaboration features the Japanese prints of none other than Hokusai.

Now I won’t have to fit in an excursion to the nearest Uniqlo when traveling – I can buy those yummy tee-shirts and cool graphics right here in Honolulu.

Tomorrow, June 1, Uniqlo will open a pop-up store in Ala Moana Center. You’ll find it on Level 3, near Center Court.

The pop-up features summer fashions for women, keiki and men.

Uniqlo is just teasing us with this pop-up store, although it may be the largest pop-up I’ve ever seen. Coming in the fall will be a two-story mega store in Ala Moana’s Ewa Wing filled with Uniqlo’s seasonal offerings.

I’m loving the SPRZ Collection, which gives a nod to some of the world’s most iconic artists and designers, including Hokusai, Andy Warhol and the Eames Brothers.

Part of the SPRZ Collection

Tomorrow only Uniqlo will offer special freezer bags to the first 300 customers who spend more than $50 (before tax). With all those cool tee-shirts and super cute paper bag shorts, that should be easy!

– Paula Rath

Love this abstract!