Surfer, model and swimsuit designer Malia Jones won the first-ever Pitch Panel, a new event at HONOLULU Fashion Week intended to give local designers a rare opportunity to elevate their business and take their brand global.
Sunday’s event featured three local designers — Jones, Bliss Lau and Kaypee Soh — each making a pitch before a panel that included Duane Kurisu, Chairman & CEO of aio (Frolic Hawaii’s parent company); Yasunobu Kyogoku, CEO and founder of Innovation Global Capital; Catherine Ngo, CEO of Central Pacific Bank; Al Tomonari, retired Vice President and General Manager of Neiman Marcus Hawaii; and Daisuke Yamai, manager of cosmetics and fashion accessories of Isetan in Japan. Prior to the event, Omar Sultan, Managing Partner of Sultan Ventures, and Susan Yamada, Executive Director of Pace at Shidler UH College of Business, provided the three designers with coaching.
For her presentation, Jones, who started her Malia Jones luxury swimwear line only a year ago, offered a clear vision of her brand and her target customer. “The collection is for fashion jet setters,” said Jones, a Hawaii native who was a champion surfer before becoming a top model. She’s married to “Hawaii Five-0” actor Alex O’Loughlin, who helped advance slides during her presentation.
Along with elegant swimwear, Jones also designs caftans and other beach-inspired clothing that she considers “travel essentials” with a “beach-city-travel vibe.” Her goal is to expand internationally, particularly to Japan, where surf wear and Hawaii are huge draws.
As part of her grand prize, Jones will receive a strategic session and consultation with Kyogoku; consultation with a business banking expert at Central Pacific Bank, lunch with Kurisu, Ngo and Tomonari and several other prizes provided by aio’s Hawaii Business, HONOLULU Magazine, Frolic Hawaii and Upspring Media.
Lau, who designs cutting-edge jewelry, and Soh, who has made a mark in home design but has plans to launch a clothing line next year, also impressed the panel. But ultimately it was Jones who providing the clearest vision of how her brand could be taken to the next level.