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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Worldly textiles

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kristen Cosmi models a HaaT skirt with all-over embroidery and a black T-shirt with twisted yarns hand-sewn in a geometric pattern.

Photos by DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday

Neiman Marcus, Level 2

Free, no reservations required

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Cosmi in a blue-brown skirt by HaaT at Neiman Marcus, created by pleating, bleaching and over-dyeing denim. The white blouse is an intarsia knit (a design knitted right into the garment, resembling a mosaic) in ultra-fine cotton featuring a Chinese garden motif.

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HaaT's seemingly simple black silk organza jacket is actually layers with devore (burn-out) and embroidery. The white cotton tank has hand-embroidered appliques.

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The skirt fabric combines cotton satin with stainless-steel threads, creating a unique expression of a rhythmical rising and falling. The peony appliques, left, combine beads, metals and thick yarns hand-embroidered on tulle. The cardigan is made of three kinds of tie-dye yarns. A felted wool applique on the inside creates a wavy texture on the outside.

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The HaaT collection pays close attention to fabric quality, print and appliques.

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In yet another nod to Honolulu as a fashion hub, Neiman Marcus at Ala Moana has been selected as one of just five stores nationwide to offer the latest from the house of Issey Miyake. It's a line called HaaT, the brainchild of Miyake's creative director Makiko Minagawa.

The eclectic, edgy line is an extension of Minagawa's experiences as textile director for Miyake since his studio's inception 30 years ago. She is known for her innovative textiles including fabrics that incorporate metals, as well as the now iconic Pleats Please collection, which employs a highly guarded secret means of transforming polyester into an architectural wonder.

Subtle tone-on-tone colors, complex constructions that look deceptively simple and fluid fabrics that may employ seven different threads are among Minagawa's signatures. Respected as one of the world's leaders in textile design, Minagawa has developed more than 500 textiles during her career. Her work has been exhibited in museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The cutting-edge line will be formally launched here this week (see box on E1).


HaaT means village market in Sanskrit, reflecting the designer's passion for materials and techniques from all over the world. The line combines Japanese textile innovations with the traditional hand craftsmanship once reserved for maharajas in India.

"There is something calming about handwork: creative traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation for centuries," Minagawa says.

Her HaaT philosophy: "In today's busy world, I yearn to create clothing that will last and not be forgotten due to the mere passing of time. I feel that if the traditional techniques can be given life within a contemporary context, they can also be passed on to future generations. A dichotomy tradition and innovation, simplicity and sophistication. Clothing that gently wraps the wearer with a sense of the spirit of those who created it. And a sense of the time in which it was made."

While most fashion designers begin with a sketch and then go in search of fabrics that will fulfill their vision, Minagawa's collections start with a thread. She actually creates every textile from the first thread and she is known to combine numerous seemingly incompatible threads in a single weave. She even combines metal threads and natural fibers.

An example of her innovative approach to textiles is her Zimbabwe denim. Minagawa decided to try growing Egyptian cotton seeds in a different climate and soil to see what would happen. The result: a more sturdy and rugged cotton that is now a staple of her collections.


Each HaaT collection is inspired by different cultures. Africa, India, Mongolia, Peru and Thailand have been sources in the past.

The collection to be presented at Neiman Marcus this weekend is inspired by an odd pairing: the Chinese belvedere and the ornate, manicured gardens of Europe.

Colors are natural and neutral but subtly infused with Chinese reds, greens and pinks. Silhouettes have a lot of movement and uneven hemlines that create a wavelike movement when a woman walks. Embroideries are floral, yet geometric.

Minagawa works with the Asha Sarabai family in India, which has been creating elaborately embellished garments for generations. "She shares her ideas, and they work out the details," Joe Thiel, Issey Miyake's USA public-relations director, explained in a phone interview from New York. "Maybe they will create only 20 to 50 pieces, and there are no re-orders on the Indian collection. It's couture at ready-to-wear prices."

The innovation and handwork come at a price. An embroidered tank top can cost $275, a polyester pant $560 and a black silk layered organza jacket $2,465.

It's a homecoming of sorts for Joe Thiel, Issey Miyake's USA public relations director, as he helps introduce the HaaT line at Neiman Marcus in Honolulu.

Thiel graduated from Hawaii Pacific University in 1997, majoring in international relations and Asian studies. He lived in both Kailua and Kahala.

In school here, Thiel focused on cultural exchange and history.

"I came to New York and ended up in fashion. Go figure," he said jokingly, noting that fashion was always one of his interests.

When we spoke with Thiel, he was still jet-lagged from having returned from Paris, where he assisted with showing the Issey Miyake men's collection.

What's new for men in international fashion, according to this globetrotting source?

"It's all very sporty and inspired by soccer and cricket and tennis and track," Thiel said. "There are even numbers incorporated into the men's collections," as a graphic element.

"It's a classic, sporty look with lots of fresh whites and greens sort of '30s and '40s, but incorporating a modern feel in terms of the silhouettes and high-tech, parachute-type fabrics," he said.

Reach Paula Rath at prath@honoluluadvertiser.com.