By Nadine Kam
Pacific Gateway Center welcomed designer Andy South at one of the first of its monthly First Friday festivities, celebrating “Andy South’s Fashion Journey,” from his humble childhood to “Project Runway” success.
The event took place Aug. 5 at the center-run Lemon Grass Cafe at 83 N. King St., where Andy’s school, audition and current designs were displayed on manikins alongside videos of his work.
The choice to focus on Andy was not random. His family was among the thousands assisted by the center since the 1970s. His family arrived in 1975 as Laotian refugees in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Though born here, the center continues to help South, housing his studio and helping him to find startup capital for his fashion business.
The center’s executive director Tin Myaing Thein, Ph.D., said she remembers Andy—who hung out at the center because his mom worked there—as a roly poly child, and no one, not even his mom Nora Sisounthone, predicted fashion in his future. His success is the family’s American dream come true.
Designer Andy South with his mom Nora Sisounthone, right, and family friends Grace Cheng, left, and Samaythong Nguyen. His mom, who overcame the adversity of arriving in this country as a refugee, shared her experience that “everything is possible” to encourage each of her children to dream big.
At one point I sauntered over to the kitchen in hope of photographing Andy’s mom cooking. She wasn’t there but I did discover these Thai-Laotian tapioca mochi dumplings sa ku sai mu, filled with minced peanuts, vegetables and pork. So delicious! Eaten with wraps of cilantro and lettuce and roasted chili pepper.
Beyond immigration and refugee issues, Pacific Gateway Center executive director Tin Myaing Thein, left, with Cheryl Soon, also has the tough task of dealing with human trafficking in low-skill work and sex trades. She expects the APEC meeting in fall will bring hundreds of sex workers to Hawaii. That’s what happens when power is conferred on louts and cads. The problem starts with them.
Christina Kemmer with Kat Wade, right, who doesn’t usually appear in photos because she’s usually taking them. These days, the former San Francisco Chronicle photographer is shooting for Honolulu Pulse.