By Angela Keen
KAKAAKO (KHNL) - Socialites in Japan and Hollywood stars are going wild over a special aloha line for dogs. It was created by a Hawaii Kai woman. It's so popular, people as far away as Denmark and Aruba are clamoring to cover their K-9's with Aloha.
Monica Shigenaga never thought her hobby of dressing up her dog would turn into such a world wide obsession. "It started off as a hobby and it became into a real thing I just named it after my dogs and then it became a brand name", she said.
The name is Cocojor, that's a combination of her dog's names. The dogs are American Staffordshire Terriers. One is Coco, the other dog is Jordan. The doggie aloha wear started when Shigenaga developed a special gel cooling vest for her show dogs. It helped keep them cool while they were training. That evolved into canine aloha attire.
Then, Hollywood stars stumbled on to her line. "I got a call from Hollywood and then that just started another craze with the celebrities I've done a lot of celebrities from Tori Spelling to Carmen Electra to Tia Carrera", she added.
Other stars to buy her Cocojor aloha attire line for their dogs include Sumo star Akebono and socialite Nicole Ritchie.
Shigenaga's store is filled with doggie aloha wear, including bikinis, surf shorts, hats, aloha shirts, muumuus, her cooling vests, bags, and just about anything you can imagine. Her dog Jordan, stays cool and calm while she fits him with an aloha shirt and a matching hat. Shigenaga went through a lot of prototypes with her own dogs to find the right fit.
She explained, "And that pattern took five different tries, remake, remake, remake because I want it to be perfect where the dog feels comfortable so it's like a second skin for them".
Now, as she opens her flagship store in Kakaako, she is most proud of spreading the aloha spirit around the world via wagging tails. "Oh my gosh that means so much because the aloha spirit just brings out the color of how we are. Like all of the different dogs through out the world," she said.
Many people warned her in the beginning her idea was silly. "Who wants to dress up your dog with an aloha shirt?" she said with a clever smile. However, she added, "Follow your dreams, that is what it is all about, follow your dreams."
Shigenaga's hallmark is her cooling vest. It's made with a special gel. When the vest is wet, it keeps a temperature of 65 degrees, keeping the dog cool. The cooling vest won an award from "Dog Fancy" magazine. And it works so well, all of the inspection dogs at the Honolulu International Airport wear them.