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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, August 7, 2009

Resort style


By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The long Kalena dress in silk georgette is designed to highlight the Diamond Lane pattern, another updated vintage Tori print.

Photos by Daeja Fallas

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

A silk-cotton blend Sunset cami top in black and Tiki Tiki, an updated vintage print, in a textured cotton pencil skirt.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

This sweet, short floral print is called Maui Garden. The ruffled, drop-waisted dress is inspired by 1920s design.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Tamar Hassing Wong

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The Tori Richard Holiday Resort collection, called Tropical Retreat, is all about effortless elegance.

Designer Tamar Hassing Wong, 31, revived and reworked prints from the '60s and '70s for the new line, recoloring them with an on-trend palette.

Wong's Holiday/Resort collection for Tori Richard, Tropical Retreat, which hits stores this month, offers tapa prints, tropical flowers, exotic birds even a Bollywood theme.

Dresses are the centerpieces of the collection, though there are some separates.

REVIVING A LINE

For the past few years, Josh Feldman, CEO of Tori Richard and son of the company's founder, Mort Feldman, has been trying to get back on track with a women's line.

Tori Richard was predominantly a women's wear company when it began in 1956. Known for its bold prints and quality fabrics and designs, it was sold in upscale stores such as Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue. But during subsequent decades, the Tori Richard focus turned to men's wear, and women's wear disappeared.

Feldman has hired a succession of designers he thought might be able to recreate the line to his liking, but none proved to be a good match for the long term. While the Tori Rich-ard prints still sizzled, silhouettes and construction details were sometimes a miss.

Enter designer Wong, who seems to be a perfect fit.

With this line, she's emphasizing lightweight, breathable fabrics such as silk, textured cotton sateen, linen and jersey knit.

The silhouettes are slightly more body-conscious than in previous seasons, though still comfortable.

"When I'm on vacation I don't want to wear jeans," Wong said. "I want something airy and flowy."

Although many Hawai'i-based fashion businesses are shrinking in the sinking economy, Tori Richard is bringing business back to the Islands by returning much of its production to Honolulu from overseas. So once again, the Tori labels will read "Made in Hawai'i."

A LIFE IN DESIGN

Wong brings experience with construction, color and design to her work.

She recently moved to San Francisco, where her husband, Scott, is associate head coach of the University of San Francisco women's volleyball team.

Wong travels to Honolulu every six weeks to work with the production team, and does her designing on computers at home.

Born on Guam, she lived in Seattle as a child, then moved with her family to Hawai'i, where she felt she fit right in and even took up surfing.

She attended Maryknoll School, then Creighton University, where she majored in business and marketing.

After earning her associate's degree in fashion design at the Art Institute of Seattle, Wong cut her teeth in the design field with an internship at Nordstrom, where she designed for the private-label women's line.

Wong worked for the Eddie Bauer corporation as a colorist, working with design teams on seasonal color palettes a job that gave her insight into how a clothing company coordinates its efforts. She then moved on to an Eddie Bauer menswear design team.

In 2003, at age 25, the local surfer girl returned to Honolulu to work as a designer in the junior girls division of Local Motion. She also had a short stint with L.A.-based Apparel Ventures, a licensing company for Trina Turk, Rampage and Local Motion beachwear.

She loved the challenge, but didn't feel at home in the city.

So when she learned that Tori Richard was looking for a women's wear designer in 2006, she jumped at the chance.

Wong says Tori Richard CEO Josh Feldman embraced her vision of creating clothing that went back to the company's roots, from the '50s, '60s and '70s.

"I looked at all these great brands that are resort-inspired, like Diane von Furstenberg and Milly and Tibi, and I thought, 'Why aren't we doing this?' We know resort, and we should be doing this best because we know it best," she said.