Big Island fashion designer Sharayah Chun-Lai draws inspiration from everything around her and turns it into clothing and accessories under her signature brand, Ola Hou Designs.
“The way I design is based off my family, my friends, my culture, life, love. That’s what I do as a designer. I take that and make these prints become a story,” she said.
Chun-Lai developed her fashion sense when she was a little girl playing dress-up and watching her grandmother get ready.
“I would watch her get ready from head to toe, watch her put on her clothes, her skirts, her jackets, her shoes, matching everything, jewelry, head to toe. I absolutely loved it. I would sit there in awe watching her style herself,” she said.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in fashion design and merchandising at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, then opened her clothing line.
“I was able to actually release my first collection in 2019,” she said.
Through it all, she’s kept her eye on the big prize.
“I would tell my family, ‘If I could ever get to New York Fashion Week, that would be the ultimate goal,’” she said.
That goal became reality when she received a call inviting her to present her aloha attire on Runway 7 at Sony Hall during next week’s Fashion Week.
Runway 7 representatives told her they were following her through Instagram and her website and were impressed by her unique designs and the stories they tell.
Next Wednesday is her big day at Times Square and she’s excited and nervous.
“I really wanted to showcase that I can do more, and I can bring that fashion side, and that high-end fashion side to the runway. I’m excited for people to see that,” she said.
Chun-Lai balances her design work with being a wife and mother.
Other Native Hawaiian fashion designers have presented at Fashion Week, but she’s the first Native Hawaiian female to accept an invitation to Runway 7.
“I’m honored,” she said.
Chun-Lai will take along a team of assistants, models and hula dancers to help her tell her story, and the eyes of the fashion design world will be watching.
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