The “Bones Live” Through Hawaiian Fashion Designers


Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

Hello friends of this newspaper column. In the 1990s, OHA printed three directories: Kū Mai Ka Poʻe Hula (1993), Ola Nā Iwi (1995), and Nā Lima Mikioi (1997). At this time, all three will be updated on People will be able to search on the website for those who are perpetuating the Hawaiian culture.

Ola Nā Iwi. In 1995, Ola Nā Iwi was published along with the stories of creative and imaginative people like painters, photographers, sculptors, etc. Also invited to submit stories to the directory were those involved in the Hawaiian language revitalization movement. In addition, Hawaiian fashion designers were invited, although there were not many around at that time.

Photo: Nākeʻu Awai
Nākeʻu Awai ma kāna hale kūʻai me ke Alanui Houghtailing. – Courtesy Photos

Nākeʻu Awai is the grand patriarch of Hawaiian fashion designers in Ola Nā Iwi. He is the first Native Hawaiian fashion designer to incorporate native plant designs in his clothing. His designs, “Male ʻŌlapa Dancers” and “Bamboo Stampers,” are highly sought after. “Dreamcatcher” and “Kāhili” are my favorites. Nākeʻu recently retired, and his godson, Keane Akao, his apprentice, is carrying on his profession on Houghtailing.

Photo: Puamana Crabbe
Puamana Crabbe me kona muʻumuʻu lau kapa kuiki. – Courtesy Photos

If Nākeʻu is the fashion elder, then Puamana Crabbe is the esteemed parent of fashion folk in Ola Nā Iwi. Her specialty is using traditional designs like quilt designs on her clothing.

There are only two traditional Hawaiian fashion designers in Ola Nā Iwi. They are Kawai Aona-Ueoka and Reni Bello. They are experts in the manufacturing of kapa, which involves designing tapa cloth that is beaten on an anvil, embellishing the tapa with Hawaiian natural colors, and stamping designs using bamboo printers. In 2011 the dancers of Hālau o Kekuhi were festooned with tapa created by a collaborative of kapa makers. Bello was one of them. Sabra Kauka and Moana Eisele were also part of that endeavor but they are in Nā Lima Mikioi, a directory for various fiber artists – kapa makers, lauhala weavers, net carrier makers, basket weavers, etc.

Today, there are many Native Hawaiian fashion designers that utilize traditional bamboo stamp designs on their clothing. Manaola Yap and Micah Kamohoaliʻi are some young fashion designers that are well known for the use of Indigenous designs. Then, there is Kanoelani Davis of Molokaʻi and Kaʻanoʻi Akaka of Oʻahu, Native Hawaiian women producing Kanaka Maoli fashion. They are not in Ola Nā Iwi. Respond!

Liliha was the one to utter the famous words, “Through this child will live the bones of the ancestors.” It was a prophecy concerning Kalākaua. This wise saying regarding Kalākaua can also be said of those artists in Ola Nā Iwi. If you are a fashion designer or artist and would like to share your talent with everyone through Ola Nā Iwi II via Papakilo, email me at and I will send you an application to fill out. Let the bones of our ancestors live on!