Kapa, the ancient bark cloth has nearly become an extinct artform in Hawaii. Kapa is a soft and durable fabric made by pounding and felting the inner bark of Hawaiian mulberry trees. Intricate patterns and motifs with cultural meaning and narrative are used in the design process. The distinct features of this fabric are highlighted in kapa apparel designs through meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail. The designs represent the Hawaiian people’s profound connection to their natural environment, reflecting the spirit of aloha and a regard for the land and ocean. Micah Kamohoalii is a Hawaiian fashion designer making big waves in revitalizing the ancient kapa artform and bringing Kapa inspired clothing to the global stage.
Kamohoalii, focused on preserving and promoting Hawaiian culture that through his creative pursuits as a fashion designer he has successfully pushed Hawaiian fashion to global platforms like no other. He is Hawaii’s first native Hawaiian designer that has successfully presented on the “Big Four” of fashion weeks, New York, London, Milan, and Paris.
Kamohoalii launched Dezigns by Kamohoalii in 2005, a clothing line that combines traditional Hawaiian motifs with contemporary aesthetics. As the CEO and lead designer, becoming the first of many sorts. His unique designs have appeared in prestigious fashion magazines like Vogue Italy, Vogue Poland, Marie Claire, Forbes and others, strengthening his captivating presence and impact in the fashion business.
Kamohoalii was introduced to clothing design at a young age, having grown up in a household with a strong kapa history. His great-grandmother was instrumental in helping to restore the craft of kapa, which had declined with the introduction of foreign materials such as silk and cotton in Hawaii in the 1800s. Despite this decrease, Kamohoalii’s family continued to create kapa, ensuring the continuation of the practice. The fabric became an essential part of his childhood, introducing him to the world of fashion, fabric, printing and clothing design.
In addition to his kapa-making abilities, Kamohoalii is a skilled kumu hula (hula master), having begun dancing at the age of three. Hula extends to his grandparents on both sides having strong connections to the art of hula. His mother’s family has a long history of kumu hula, some of whom performed as court dancers during King Kalakaua’s reign. When it came time for the next generation to carry on the hula, Kamohoalii’s grandmother passed down his uniki (graduation) from her to him.
The hula or traditional Hawaiian dance has made a significant impact on Kamohoalii’s apparel and designs. He is the kumu hula (hula master) of Hālau Nā Kīpuʻupuʻu, a traditional Hawaiian dance school dedicated to preserving native Hawaiian customs, culture, oratories, and dance. The practice of Hula awakens one’s senses, providing a deeper understanding of elements like rain, earth, wind, and water while gaining a heightened awareness and respect for environment via the hula lens. This is a great source of inspiration for Kamohoalii’s creative process.
He was the first Hawaiian brand invited to the official New York Fashion Week presentations in 2021. His presentation during the event was world class and featured his family members on the runway, creating a poignant and unforgettable experience. His display exhibited his incredible creations and highlighted Hawaiian culture’s beauty and depth. He picked Native Hawaiian models of diverse ages, sizes, and forms to ensure an accurate depiction of his culture. During his show, the crowd responded warmly to the powerful presence of his 70-year-old aunt, whose gray hair produced an elegant atmosphere. The runway presentation defied typical fashion show expectations, eliciting a reaction equal to that of a spectacular sporting event, with the audience roaring and yelling their support.
Micah Kamohoalii has made a mark in the fashion industry with his broad abilities and devotion to Hawaiian culture. His designs, firmly based on traditional Hawaiian creativity, have received national and worldwide acclaim. Kamohoalii’s contributions demonstrate his dedication and love for preserving his forefathers’ rich legacy as he continues to appreciate and share the beauty of Hawaii and its culture.
Kamohoalii’s also works as the creative director and executive producer for Kuamano Productions, promoting Hawaiian culture via different media mediums. His participation in documentaries and television shows such as “True Hawaii” and “Restaurants on the Edge” expands his efforts to promote and celebrate Hawaiian culture with a global audience. In 2022, he received two Silver Telly Awards for his work in film. In 2023, he won five Telly awards, one Gold, one Silver, and three Bronze. His work also earned him a nomination and a win in the prestigious 2023 Emmy Awards,
Micah Kamohoalii continues to inspire and encourage the fashion business and the larger society with his abilities and devotion to Hawaiian culture. Through his designs, lessons, and artistic works, he leaves a lasting legacy that honors the Hawaiian people’s rich history and customs, assuring their preservation for future generations.