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Catching a break at Malaekahana, on O‘ahu's windward coast.
Vol. 11, No. 3
June/July 2008

  >>   The Giving Tree
  >>   Green Chic
  >>   Town & Country

Green Chic (Page 7)

Allison Izu (Nagato) mastered the conservationist art of Decon/Recon long before the terms were invented. As a child, she used to cut up standard-issue Barbie clothes and resew them into Vogue-worthy outfits for her dolls. After graduating first in her class from Manhattan’s Fashion Institute of Technology, Izu came back to Honolulu and, while working for her family’s wastewater recycling business, started Reincarnation, featuring jersey tops hand-embellished with snippets of vintage fabric, obi cloth or aloha prints. In 2007 she launched a line for petite women, beginning with an assortment of denims (all with Hawaiian names); it’s called AI, which, besides being Izu’s initials, is the Japanese word for “love.”

This FIT graduate’s obsession with fit was born from personal frustration. “I’m 5’2”,” the designer explains, “and I had a terrible time finding jeans that fit. If you’re short and not a size 0, you’re out of luck.” Izu is erudite about the subtleties of proportion, and her goal is to create an entire wardrobe, in sizes 00 to 10, for the often-overlooked short but not necessarily small woman. Her audacious, award-winning riff on a traditional black kimono —high-slit skirt, one bare shoulder—shows that she has the design chops to do it with fearless flair. Izu’s social conscience is anything but diminutive; she devotes much of her spare time to environmental and altruistic pursuits, ranging from recycling and water conservation to serving on nonprofit boards to “trying to uplift the self-esteem of young girls” by example and mentoring. “When I was younger, sewing for my Barbies, I didn’t think I could ever grow up to be a fashion designer,” Izu muses. “How times have changed!”