Skip to content
Reading time: 3 minutes
Leah Aoki
Leah Aoki modeled her garment at the 57th UH Mānoa annual fashion show

A student’s original fashion design, which drew inspiration from a Japanese children’s tale of a princess who creates intricate clothing beside the Milky Way river, has been selected to be on international display.

Created by Leah Aoki from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources’ (CTAHR) Fashion Design and Merchandising program, the garment was chosen by the International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) after undergoing a blind-review process with an acceptance rate of 28% in the undergraduate category. In addition to the garment, an in-depth research paper was required, which held the majority of the weight in ITAA’s selection process.

navy blue garment with gold designs
Side detail of Aoki’s garment

“I am very excited to be able to travel to Baltimore this coming November for the ITAA conference and show my piece alongside other aspiring undergraduates in my field,” said Aoki. “All of my hard work and research paid off. I hope to build connections with other fashion students and faculty over the course of the conference.”

Aoki will be traveling with her mentor, Fashion Design Instructor Minako McCarthy, who played a major role in Aoki’s submission. Because the ITAA is a professional, educational organization, they examine both the students’ skills and mentors’ abilities. In addition to supporting and encouraging multiple students to submit their garments and abstract to ITAA, McCarthy is present for each step of the process to complete the submission together.

“Submissions to ITAA aren’t a part of classwork, so every year, I choose a few students that work closely with me to submit the package (the garment and abstract) to ITAA in time,” said McCarthy. “Leah’s design had unique elements with clear and cohesive ideas that were connected to her design, and her construction techniques were well presented through the dress.”

Storytelling in style

navy blue garment with gold designs
Close up of Aoki’s gold motifs

Aoki’s garment was a part of her senior collection which was showcased in the 57th UH Mānoa annual fashion show, Supersonic!, held on April 30 at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center. Her collection pulled inspiration from the Tanabata festival, which started from a Japanese children’s tale originally adapted from China.

The particular garment selected by ITAA tells the story of Princess Orihime whose job is to weave luxurious garments alongside the Milky Way river. Elements of the story are represented through various style, fabric and color choices of Aoki’s piece.

“The silhouette of the dress displays a different look into Japanese fashion, the Victorian influence on Lolita fashion (a subculture of Japanese street style),” explained Aoki. “The navy blue color of the dress represents the endless night sky, while the gold abstract stitching on the front and back of the dress portrays the threads that she used to weave clothes, as well as the stars and constellations in the night sky. Many of the decorative designs that you see with the gold are my take on traditional Japanese kimono motifs.”

Read more at the CTAHR website.

Back To Top