Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Maui shows up strong in SI Swimsuit Issue

February 15th, 2012

Sports Illustrated photos by Walter Iooss Jr.
Sports Illustrated 2012 Swimsuit issue covergirl Kate Upton, photographed in a swimsuit by Maui-based Suit Yourself Bikinis by Kathleen Bruening.

Hawaii may not be the biggest state for swimwear manufacturing and distribution, but there are a lot of innovative brands here, led by designers who understand the magic trifecta of fit, style and utility.

So it makes sense that Hawaii brands are typically on prominent display when the Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit issue and web site debuts.

There must be something in the water over on Maui because designers there are a hit with SI.

This year, Maui-based Suit Yourself Bikinis got the cover, with Kate Upton photographed in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, in a suit designed by Kathleen Bruening, who posted on Facebook, that the cover suit was sold out by 6 a.m. on Tuesday, once word got out. She has a wait list going, and you can get on it by emailing with your contact information and size.

Also among the featured brands is Acacia Swimwear, created by Maui-based designer Naomi Newirth and Lyndie Irons, wife of the late world champion surfer Andy Irons.

And the mother of Maui brands, Letarte, whose suits have now been in the swimsuit issue for 12 consecutive years. The brand created by Lisa Letarte Cabrinha and Michele Letarte Ross, and designed by Lisa, last made the cover in 2005.

Wearing one of Letarte’s suits is Kailua girl and ‘Iolani graduate Michelle Vawer. In a nice emailed note, reader Winter alerted me yesterday, “Your 2009 prediction of Michelle Vawer for SI just happened!”

Thanks! I totally forgot I said that, although I always think it when I see her.

Michelle Vawer in HI Luxury.

In November 2009, Michelle was the model for a Valentine’s 2010 lingerie spread, “In between the lines,” I styled for HI Luxury magazine. After the session, I posted, “I just wonder how long it will be before Sports Illustrated comes calling for its swimsuit edition?”

She was also the model for another photo session I styled for the magazine, in which she was cast as a femme fatale after a young heir’s diamonds. I made a video out of the storyline. Sorry for the sound quality and jerkiness; I was a video rookie two years ago:

Nadine Kam video
Non-flash video link

Michelle is up for the title of SI’s “Rookie of the Year” at In a “This Week in Beautiful Women” feature on, writer Jimmy Traina publicly wonders, “Who is this Michelle Vawer?” before naming her as his choice of “Rookie of the Year.”

I don’t see any reason why she wouldn’t win!

Anyone else make the issue? Speak up now!

Michelle Vawer, shot in Cairns, Queensland, Australia, in a top by Cecilia Prado Mare and Maui-based Letarte’s Lisa Cabrinha.

Michelle in a swimsuit by Maui-based Suit Yourself Bikinis, by Kathleen Bruening.

Sports Illustrated photo by James Macari
And Hawaii swimsuit designers aren’t the only ones who got in. Here, Alyssa Miller wears Ki-ele’s Zayit necklace, one of several pieces by Marylea Conrad featured in the magazine and online. The photo was shot on Desroches Island, Seychelles. The swimsuit is by Luli Fama.


Added Feb. 16: Heard from a Garden Isle reader who also wanted to give credit to designer Lennie Collins, whose company La Vida Aloha, also made it into the issue. One of her suits was modeled by cover girl Kate Upton, below:

Sports Illustrated photos by Walter Iooss Jr.

Added Feb. 22: Among jewelry featured are pieces by Maui-raised, New York based designer Tiffany Chou, and Makawao-based RockaBella Jewels also makes a prominent showing with stacking rings ($70 set) worn by Jessica Gomes, and a 14K gold-dipped shark tooth necklace ($80) worn by Chrissy Teigen, below:

Sports Illustrated photos by James Macari

Rockabella stacking rings.

Allison Izu recognized in Oprah’s magazine

January 27th, 2012

As part of a cover feature in the February issue of Oprah Winfrey’s magazine, O, Hawaii’s Allison Izu Song is the featured designer for petite jeans.

The article, entitled “Jeans That Make you Look 10 lbs Thinner and Other Denim Miracles” shows readers, “How to Wear Denim Now” and answers questions like, “Can I Wear Flared Jeans If I’m Short?” The answer to this petite woman’s dilemma, on page 69, is Allison Izu’s Chinatown trouser.

The magazine replies,” Yes!  but don’t take regular flares and hem them. It will throw off the proportions. Try petite flares by Allison Izu, who designs a clothing line for women 5’6″ and under.”

Of course, petites in Hawaii have known about Allison since she was preparing to launch her brand in 2007 (, but there are petites across the nation who are undoubtedly hungry for the right fit as well. The magazine has only been on stands for about two weeks and Allison has already received numerous orders for the featured jean, as well as, other new styles all manufactured in Hawaii.

Allison says, “I dont know what to expect or how this will impact our brand, I am just trying to be in the moment and ride the Oprah wave!”

To celebrate the moment, she is extending her new year offer of a 30 percent discount at, with the code: NEW2012.

Due to Oprah writeup, she brought back the Chinatown Trouser, with pin tuck; as well as the Honolulu (formerly the Luana-lulu, wide leg, high-waist trouser); and the Hotel (formerly the Kolohe Welt), straight skinny.

All with new details and in new fabrics, she says, including soft, comfy lightweight stretch chambray, and all made in Hawaii after some setbacks in dealing with manufacturers in China and L.A.