Feb 06, 2017
A Future Rooted in the Past
Photos by Linny Morris
As a father and son design team, Hilo's Sig and Kuhao Zane have forged the respect and admiration of their peers for the detailed approach they take to their craft.
For more than 30 years, Sig has been creating an iconic line of aloha wear that bears his namesake, drawing inspiration for his apparel from the family's deep connection to Hawaiian history and culture. A few years back, Sig's son, Kuhao, began to take a larger role in the company and the duo added a design arm (Sig Zane Kaiao) to their business model, taking on clients like Hawaiian Airlines and most recently, Ward Village, to name just a few. Unlike other designers, the thought process behind their work isn't tied to current trends alone, but rather their shared and seemingly endless knowledge of Hawaii's cultural history. No matter the project or line they produce, one thing remains a constant: their attention to detail and unique ability for indigenous storytelling through the art they create.
For their projects at Ward Village—which include an inspiring mural at South Shore Market and multiple projects at Waiea—SZ Kaiao dug into the history of the land and people that once called this neighborhood home. The legends of old, often overlooked or unknown to the masses, would light their path forward. For this new neighborhood to grow firm roots, it has to retain a connection to the past. "When it came to our work for Ward Village, we wanted to create a body of work that's reflective of the past, of now, but is certainly relevant for the future," said Sig Zane. A testament to the depths of their research, emblazoned above the entrance to South Shore Market, is an 'Olelo No'eau (Hawaiian proverb) that reads:
Ola ka wai mana, ulu a'e ka honua Kukuluae'o!
May the sacred waters always flow, nurturing the lands at Kukuluae'o!
According to Kuhao, the 'olelo references a stream that once ran through this area, nourishing the people, plants, and animals that called the land home. In his eyes, the process of connecting the history of the land with the current residents is fundamentally important. "I really enjoy the work we do," he says with a gentle laugh, "but I also see it as an opportunity to not only be creative, but to show people a deeper side of our culture."
In line with Kuhao, Sig offered the following perspective on the importance of the work they've created. The more we understand each other's history, he surmised, the brighter our collective futures will become.
I believe that sharing our perspective on culture and traditions have brought a greater understanding for Ward Village. Expressing their intent through design has elevated their commitment as they honor the history and heritage of this area. Our collaborative efforts strengthen and perpetuates cultural values, not only for us, but for all who take in this visual narrative and will one day call this land home.
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