More Than Aloha Shirt – Young Designers on the Rise

Andy South at Nextdoor. Photo: Emily Metcalf
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Andy South at Nextdoor. Photo: Emily Metcalf

BY MIRIAM LANDRU – The local fashion scene in Hawaii features new designers whose aesthetics range from beachy to sleek to fun, colorful, Harajuku style. Matt Bruening, Project Runway’s Andy South, and Acid Dolls- all local designers, launched their new collections last weekend with fashion shows at Next Door in Chinatown and Wolfgang’s Steakhouse at the Royal Hawaiian Center.


Waianae boys Matt Bruening and Andy South recently joined forces in a fashion show at Next Door premiering their Summer and Fall collections. Matt and Andy’s creative relationship goes back to their days as students at Waianae Middle School. “We met in the 7th grade. We were always creative. Andy was known to be really into the Arts,” said Bruening.

South’s recent success on the reality show Project Runway, where he came in third, has helped to fuel his passion for clothing design. However, as a teen, he never dreamed he would pursue a career in fashion design. “I didn’t know there was a possibility of even having a career in fashion. I just didn’t grow up around it. The more I learned about it… it just became my life,” South said.

Designs by Andy South. Photo: Emily Metcalf

In September, South’s Fall collection premieres at Honolulu’s Neiman Marcus in Ala Moana Center. “The goal for my Fall collection was to give my fans what they already see of me and want. Especially after coming home from Project Runway, there was a large fan base that wanted to buy into my clothing,” added South. His Fall collection will also be available at various boutiques in Japan. South describes it as “moving, edgy, and contemporary”.

While South’s collection is dark and sleek, Bruening’s fall collection is drapey and layered. “DIEM is the Fall collection. It’s based on what we would wear if the world would end tomorrow. Instead of being really over the top, I made it really comfortable, easy, and wearable,” Bruening said.

Designs by Matt Bruening. Photo: Emily Metcalf

Bruening’s Summer collection, COAST, is the antithesis of DIEM. It still has Bruening’s signature layered style, but in lighter colors and watercolor prints. “It’s basically about my interpretation of easy living enjoying life. Really island inspired, the ocean, the colors… I incorporated the Aloha style,” he said. Bruening’s designs are available at Acid Dolls or through personal consultation.

Locally owned by the King sisters, Acid Dolls launched the first of three Summer collections at the “Last Saturday” Fashion show held monthly at Royal Hawaiian Center. “The whole Summer is ocean themed with the first being “Nautical Nice”. It’s like “yacht club”, fun in the sun, very bright,” said Cindy King, lead designer.

With all of the young, fresh designing talent in Hawaii- do they feel in competition? The answer was a resounding “NO.” “If designers in Hawaii don’t come together and help each other out- there is no industry,” said King. This was apparent at the Acid Dolls fashion show in which Andy South attended , while Matt Bruening styled the models backstage.

“I want people to look at Hawaii and know we have talented designers here. When I read fashion blogs, they say people in Hawaii don’t know anything about fashion… I just want to prove them wrong,” said King.

These designers are certainly proving that Hawaiian fashion is more than just the Aloha shirt.





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