Hawaiʻi in Design features 10 designers who all reference Hawai‘i's environment—both built and natural—and are at the confluence of deeply rooted aesthetic principals mingled with global impulses. Scholar John Charlot, describes the Hawaiian aesthetic as a reduction of the natural world into form, function, and pattern. Today, designers are responding to urban and rural environments; high rises, synthetic materials, and virtual shopping now naturalized into our lived experience. These designers are responding to the world around them, yet are simultaneously, actively shaping Hawai‘i as a place where local and global trends intersect.
In some cases, the designers are not re-conceptualizing the format of the given medium through which they convey their designs, but are recalibrating the relationship between producer and consumer through their brand by prefacing local idioms over stereotypical depictions of iconic landmarks for Hawai‘i-specific associations. As is the case with Salvage Public, a menswear line consisting largely of t-shirts. The brand does not conform to standard, iconic images of Hawai‘i. Instead, Salvage Public uses colloquial language such as “Waiks” and “Wall Rat” printed on t-shirts to reference Waikīkī, or a color block scheme in indigo dye to imply the horizon line. Nevertheless, their garments are immensely popular among tourists and locals alike.
Hilo-based furniture designer and lifelong hula practitioner Iliahi Anthony integrates methods she learned creating hula implements such as twisting, braiding, and weaving, with industrial materials to create new functional shapes. She does not consider herself a maker, but rather a designer who is interested in fusing cultural practice with a modernist furniture take. By contrast, Matthew Tapia, a lettering artist; Eric Walden or CJ Kanuha, two surfboard builders with different approaches to board making, pride themselves in hand-working their designs. Regardless of their method, every designer in the exhibition prompts the viewer to consider how design has evolved in Hawai‘i, and how Hawai‘i has evolved in design.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website