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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, May 2, 2005

Fashion consumes designer

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

Emilia Cazin of Hawai'i Kai, designer of the mother-daughter and mother-son line called Petite Isle, has a sophisticated fashion pedigree.

"For me, I never wanted to do anything else," Cazin said, in her lilting French accent. "My dream was always fashion, since I made paper doll clothes as a little girl, and it always stays like this."

Cazin majored in fine art at the Sorbonne, "only because they didn't offer a degree in fashion there," she said. She went on to study at the Fashion Forum's Paris campus.

Her first internship and job were for Promostyle, a Paris trend-forecasting firm. She was a member of a trend-spotting team that projected where fashion would be in two years.

They took a sociological approach, trying to determine what women would be doing and feeling two years hence. Where would they travel, what technology would they use, what would their social lives entail? Future careers, as well as leisure activities, were all entered into the complicated equation to help forecast fashion trends.

"Fashion has to adapt to a woman's life, so that (her lifestyle) is what we were trying to predict," Cazin explained.

To gain perspective, research is required. "You often have to dig 20 years, or even 200 years, looking at history, paintings, decoration of the past." Trend analysts often combine history with personal memories of styles worn by their mothers and grandmothers.

An example of a timely trend returning is the boho chic so popular this season. It's all about the '70s, freedom and emancipation.

The '70s were a creative time, Cazin explained, so of course monochromatic colors and severe silhouettes would be totally inappropriate. Instead, designers brought back bright colors, eyelets, tiered skirts, peasant blouses, bold accessories and espadrilles.

Cazin met her husband, Antoine Cazin, a family-practice physician, in Paris. They moved to Tahiti, where he took over a medical practice. Unable to sever herself from fashion, Emilia went to work for Esprit in San Francisco, designing their teen girls' line. She spent three months of the year in the Bay Area and nine months in Tahiti.

When her husband moved his practice to Honolulu, Emilia got a job with Town & Country, creating surfwear for both genders. She designed, sketched, selected fabrics and supervised production of board shorts, shirts, snowboard jackets, dresses and tops.

In order to test the garments, she learned to surf: "That was a condition for me," she explained. Now she's hooked on the sport. "I discovered the whole world of surfing, and it made me feel closer to those people (T&C customers) and to understand their philosophy and approach to life."

She still surfs, but less frequently since she had twin girls five years ago. Surfing "clears my mind and gives me more energy," Cazin said.

After the birth of her twins, she decided to go into business for herself designing a children's line called Petite Isle, a nod to her French roots. It was her daughters, Adelaida and Marguerite, now in kindergarten at Kahala Elementary School, who inspired her to create a mother-and-daughter line.

"They loved the dresses I made for myself and wanted one just like mine, so I started making matching dresses for them," Cazin said.

"I was so happy to see them in those dresses. I want them to stay little girls as long as they can — no T-shirts and jeans, please," Cazin said.

People reacted with such enthusiasm that she began making special-order mother-daughter dresses for Christmas photos, weddings and birthdays. They became part of her line last year. Several months ago, she added little boys' aloha shirts.

Daddy Antoine Cazin loves the whole concept of mother-and-daughter dressing. "The twins were born on my birthday, Aug. 16, and when I see them all together in matching dresses, they look like a wrapped birthday present," he said, chuckling.

Emilia Cazin likes the cross-cultural aspects of her clothing. She chooses fabrics that have a French country flair or Hawaiian-style prints or Asian motifs.

Petite Isle mother-daughter dresses are sold at Vue Hawai'i in the Kahala Mall, while her keiki clothing is sold at Kid's World in Aloha Tower Marketplace and Sunshine Kids in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. Moms can find matching dresses at Allure in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. Prices for the girls dresses are from $26 to $45, and mothers dresses are $28 to $50. Little boys' aloha shirts are $18 to $22. To inquire, write to Cazin at acazin @aloha.net.

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