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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, March 18, 2005

Home again, to start up fashion-lifestyle magazine

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

Like so many of our Islands' young adults, Amy Alston, 28, of Lanikai, Sarah Honda, 30, of Makiki, and Molly Watanabe, 30, of Nu'uanu, went away to college, spent several years working on the Mainland — and then came home.

Smart magazine's first issue is due to hit newsstands April 1.


Launches April 1

Target audience: 18- to 34-year-old Hawai'i women.

Inspired by Lucky and Jane magazines

Founders: Amy Alston, Sarah Honda and Molly Watanabe

Cost: $3.50 on newsstands or $28 for eight issues

To subscribe: Send check or money order to Smart Magazine, P.O. Box 17159, Honolulu, HI 96817.

After getting a bachelor of arts degree from George Washington University, Watanabe lived in Italy for a year, followed by several years working at high-powered public-relations firms in New York City. She came home for a year and a half to test the waters. While here she worked for Communications Pacific, a public-relations firm, before returning to George Washington University to earn a master's degree.

Then it was decision time. "It was tough, but I decided this is where I want to live and raise a family," said Watanabe. "I also wanted to bring something back (to the Islands) but do something new." It had long been her dream to start up a magazine, and that's exactly what she is doing now.

"We thought we should do it before we have mortgages and kids in school," Watanabe said, the "we" referring to the triumvirate that is about to launch Smart magazine.

Watanabe teamed up with Alston, who was raised in Alaska but whose father grew up on the Windward side of O'ahu, and Honda, her Punahou classmate, to publish the Honolulu-based magazine targeting 18- to 34-year-olds. They describe Smart as a fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazine along the lines of Lucky or Jane.

The first issue, due to hit newsstands April 1, is 70 pages and includes information and advice through such features as a spring fashion spread, "Fashion Pro," "Chic Eatery," and how to do your spring cleaning with organic cleansers. The magazine will focus on local designers and retailers who are accessible to folks — especially those who love to shop — in the Islands. In fact, each local item will be accented with a little plumeria blossom.

The cover, styled by Blaine Ashley Hite, who will be a contributing writer, features model and surfer Malia Jones. Hite chose a diaphanous print dress by Midi from Mis Fortune, accessorized with a necklace by Ginger 13, a local jewelry design firm that uses dyed kukui nuts. Hite said the look "is in tune with the trends of mixing and matching sheers and animal prints, as well as the popularity of green in all hues. But it also has a touch of Hawai'i."

The creative team

Alston — whose husband, Rob, was a Punahou classmate of Watanabe and Honda's — is the only one who has magazine experience, having worked with her husband on Heavy Water, a surf magazine. Honda majored in journalism at the University of Washington, after which she managed hip-hop and rap groups in New York City.

All three women were surprised to see how much was going on around Honolulu when they returned for family visits during the past couple of years. "Honolulu is coming of age," said Watanabe. "It's going to explode, and when it does, it's going to be huge. We have a lot going on here, but there's more potential. Hawai'i has a unique style as well as a special lifestyle. It's just different from other cities, and we want to capture and reflect that. But we don't want to make it so local that it's Hawai'i-centric."

Watanabe said: "It's a myth that nothing new can start in Hawai'i, and local people won't buy into something different. We need to take risks, and now's the time."

Reach Paula Rath at 525-5464 or prath@honoluluadvertiser.com.