Growing up in Seattle, Zana Akane Tsutakawa of Akane Clothing didn’t fantasize about becoming a fashion designer. On the contrary, she laughs,
“I went to art school because I thought clothing design was really shallow.” When her senior project ended up being an avant-garde-style show, “My profs chided me for not making studio art for a gallery.” After moving to Honolulu four years ago, Tsutakawa started creating idiosyncratic garments, combing the city for reusable fabric and distinctive trimmings. Back then, thrift shops and garage sales weren’t thronged with designers hunting for vintage swag. “It’s great—the more the merrier,” Tsutakawa says of the current boom, adding wryly, “but now you have to go to Amsterdam for interesting buttons!” Tsutakawa’s attention to detail extends to the environment, via fervent recycling, and she’s an eloquent proponent of
keeping it local.
“Every business that’s owned by someone here, that’s where I want my dollars to go,” she says. Akane Clothing’s line includes jewel-toned raw-silk skirts, “surf-tested” bathing suits and saucy minibloomers, but Tsutakawa is still a resourceful practitioner of Decon/Recon, whether she’s using antique fabric or reimagining gargantuan men’s T-shirts as body-conscious minidresses. “Akane,” incidentally, is a Japanese name meaning “the color of the sunset,” but it’s often mistaken for Hawaiian—which seems to confirm that Tsutakawa has ended up where she’s meant to be, doing what she’s supposed to do. And every Akane garment is one of a kind, hand-rendered and personally signed, just like the “serious” artwork in any gallery.