OUR STORY . . .
In 2006, recognizing that Hawai‘i’s growing and evolving fashion community was without a central resource for information, networking, and advocacy, Melissa May White and Toby Portner co-founded the Hawai‘i Fashion Incubator (Hifi). Hifi is a membership-based organization whose mission is to inspire, promote, and sustain an integrated fashion community in Hawai‘i. Hifi's goal is to restore fashion’s place in Hawai‘i’s economic and cultural identity through community-building and alliances with education, economic development, the arts, and tourism.
Hifi's co-founders conceptualized the Hawai‘i Fashion Incubator as a central hub where members of the community can interact, collaborate, and collectively drive the local fashion industry forward, drawing inspiration from fashion incubators elsewhere (e.g., Toronto, Los Angeles, New Zealand). In April 2007 Hifi hosted an event at the Arts at Mark's Garage to introduce the concept and solicit the input of the local fashion community. A panel of local fashion professionals discussed the future of Hawaii's fashion industry and 50 attendees completed surveys, the results of which have helped inform Hifi’s mission and projects. In May 2008 Hifi launched its membership program.
Hifi’s network presently reaches over 1,000 members of the local fashion community, from buyers & retailers to designers, media, photographers, models, event planners, makeup artists, educators, students, and fashion enthusiasts. It reaches that network through its membership program, newsletter, electronic mailing list, and social networking sites.
MEET THE FOUNDERS . . .
OUR MISSION . . .
Hifi’s mission is to inspire, promote, and sustain an integrated fashion community in Hawai‘i.
Hifi aims to raise awareness and appreciation of fashion as both art and industry through alliances with the arts,
government, and business sectors, cultural organizations, and educational institutions.
Hifi’s membership program fosters collaboration and resource sharing within Hawai‘i’s fashion community,
providing guidance and resources and linking local talent with the global marketplace.
Melissa May White has been enamored of fashion since childhood. A onetime designer and fashion writer, her current passion is bringing the community together around fashion.
Toby Portner has carried a threefold passion for fashion, wellness, and education through her career so far. She's weaving them together, providing opportunities for individuals and families to learn and create together.
KEY ACCOMPLISHMENTS . . .
Since its inception Hifi has collaborated with numerous local businesses and organizations. It co-produced First Fashion Fridays at Aloha Tower in 2008 and partnered with Ala Moana Center in 2009 to produce "50 Years of Fashion in Hawaii", an exhibit coinciding with Ala Moana's 50th Anniversary that drew over 7,500 guests. In spring of 2011, Hifi once again partnered with Ala Moana Center to host a 10-day Pop-Up Fashion Incubator that featured a boutique with 18 local designers and over 25 fashion events produced by Hifi and members of the community. Hifi has promoted over 100 local designers via trunk shows, fashion shows, and its pop-up boutique "The Coop", showcasing local design at venues such as Bar 35, the Honolulu Design Center, The Contemporary Museum, the Hawaii Convention Center, Ala Moana Center, and Aloha Tower.
Hifi has collaborated on events with international fashion brands, including Neiman Marcus, Theory, and lululemon athletica. Hifi's events and projects have received coverage in nearly every major media outlet in Hawaii.
In 2008, Hifi launched a "Green Style" eco-fashion event, which Hifi brought to Kauai in 2008 and Kona in 2009. The Green Style events feature fashion shows, industry networking events, panel discussions, and a marketplace where local designers can showcase and sell their work.
In March 2012, Hifi opened the doors to the Hifi COOP at Ward Warehouse, Hawaii's first fashion incubator. Featuring equipment, workspace, meeting area, fashion library, photography studio, showroom, and local design boutique, the COOP is a hub for all things Hawaii fashion. Governor Neil Abercrombie and First Lady Nancie Caraway attended the opening and have continuously expressed support for Hifi's efforts.
Hifi supports preservation of the University of Hawaii's historic Costume Collection and has hosted three exhibits to raise awareness and funds for the Collection that drew over 8,000 visitors. Hifi's exhibitions have garnered the Collection valuable attention from the public, media, and the State Senate, where Senator Will Espero proposed a bill to recognize it as "a world class collection of historic and national quality, integrity, and significance."
Hifi has connected high school and college students with mentors and internships in fashion, made presentations to local schools, and promoted Honolulu’s two college-level fashion programs through events showcasing student work at Neiman Marcus.