young women walking for a fashion show

Models kill time with smartphones while designers steam last-minute wrinkles. Selfies, group shots, stage managers barking orders, it’s all part of the scene at Roots—the 50th annual University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa fashion show by the fashion design and merchandising program of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

The history of fashion at UH stretches back almost 100 years and is intermingled with the history of fashion in the state. The first classes in textiles were offered in 1917, just 10 years after the college’s founding. The long history, extensive list of successful graduates and the half century milestone for the annual fashion show all added to the pressure on 2016 senior designers Kari Begay and Moses Gouveia.

Backstage at the UH Mānoa fashion show.

“Especially this year, because it’s the 50th anniversary of the fashion program it is quite a big event,” said Gouveia.

UH Mānoa designers come to the program from many different directions.

“I took an illustration course about a year ago and then I took a sewing class, then I ended up here,” said Begay.

In the weeks leading up to the show, activity in Miller Hall rises to a fever pitch.

“I’m showing a ready-to-wear resort wear. All the late nights and early mornings to put all this collection together, to see it come to fruition on the runway, it’s pretty exciting,” said Gouveia. “It’s a little nerve-wracking on the way, but I’m sure it’ll all be good in the end.”

“I’m definitely passionate about the designs. I do want to make a motorcycle brand, I do want to go to school for my masters. As far as combining textiles and design, to make garments that are both fashionable and functionable,” said Begay.

At the end of the night the designers say it was worth it. Gouveia said, “I feel like, overwhelmed, seeing all my work on the runway. It was great!”