From Merrie Monarch to LA Fashion Week, this Hawaii designer is mixing passion with art

A Maui fashion designer is getting national attention after a trip to New York Fashion Week earlier this month.
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 6:46 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 28, 2022 at 11:19 PM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Maui fashion designer is getting national attention after a trip to New York Fashion Week earlier this month.

Owner and designer of Pulelehua, Gemma Alvior, was the first designer from Maui ever invited to the event. She is now preparing for Los Angeles Fashion Week, which will be held next week.

“I’m honored,” said Pulelehua owner and designer Gemma Alvior. “I’m speechless at times. But I’m honored that I was able to be chosen.”

Alvior had dreams of being a fashion designer since 2016.

“2016 was my very first competition at Merrie Monarch with my Halau Kekuaokala’au’ala’iliahi,” Alvior said. “For Merrie Monarch everything is fashion, the best of the best outfits and all the designers come out with their new designs. I just wanted to be a designer. Like one day, some of these people are going to be wearing my clothes.”

Two years later, she launched her own line – Pulelehua.

From Merrie Monarch to New York Fashion Week in Brooklyn two weeks ago, to now Los Angeles Fashion Week, Alvior said it is a dream come true for her and her team.

“This is something I’ve been manifesting for myself since I was in high school. I really, really wanted to go to New York Fashion Week, and it happened, and I’m just really grateful to represent Gemma,” said model Kawena Kan-Hai.

Maui native Kawena Kan-Hai was among dozens of models sporting the Pulelehua look in New York.

“They let me know that I was one of the models who was chosen to audition to be in a Time Square billboard which is really cool and I’m really excited,” Kan-Hai said.

For Alvior, her prints are more than just pretty. Each one has a purpose.

“My sister passed away two years ago,” Alvior said. “She had a major heart attack. A year later, my nephew passed away from a heart attack. So having the la’i collection was to help protect my family and for everyone else.”

The pink orchid print is for her mother who is battling stage 4 cancer. Alvior is bringing that design with her to L.A.

Southwest Airlines is giving her and her team free roundtrip tickets.

“We’re honored and privileged to take part in this with Gemma and her amazing brand,” said Southwest Airlines Maui station leader Del Tauaese. “It’s just another great opportunity for Southwest Airlines to kokua and show love for our community and support businesses like this that need to be seen and heard.”

Watch Pulelehua in LAFW here on Oct. 9 at 1 p.m. Hawaii time.