An Inspired Approach

An Inspired Approach

Native Hawaiians and many of their Polynesian brethren in the South Pacific carried strong traditions of fabric making, called kapa.

In Hawaiʻi, women used specialized grooved clubs to pound patterns into the prepared, softened bark of certain trees and shrubs, such as hau and wauke. Luckily, the traditional art of kapa has not been lost to time. The legacy and popularity of kapa continues today—as seen in trending traditional Hawaiian motifs like squares, triangles, and diagonal forms—however, production of these age-old designs has taken a more modern form.

When fashion designer Joan Simon Smoyer came across kapa artifacts from pre-contact Hawai’i and Polynesia, she saw so much more than geometric shapes on hand-pounded cloth. Smoyer noticed a world of beauty and a hidden story told by the strong and assertive motifs. From this inspiration, she began designing clothes for men and women that featured the designs and patterns found across Oceania.

Smoyer began designing clothing in Fiji in the late 1970s and opened her first boutique in Hawaiʻi, Noa Noa, in 1983. Today, Smoyer is a highly respected designer and Noa Noa, located in the heart of charming Ward Centre, is one of the Aloha State’s premier brands and boutiques featuring kapa-inspired clothing for men and women. Noa Noa fashion, designed for men and women, is best known for its alluring bright colors and profusions of patterns.

How does Smoyer achieve her patterns without spending her day beating fabric? She prefers to batik the fabric, a technique that originated in Indonesia and holds a history that predates written records. The process begins by creating a chop, a square eight- to 10-inch copper block used to stamp bolts of cloth with wax, or by canting, drawing on the fabric with a special tool. After the wax is applied, the fabric is dyed. The wax repels the dye to create a design. Finally, the wax is dissolved in boiling water, leaving a finished product that is as much a work of art as it is fabric for a garment.

At its core, Noa Noa specializes in one-of-a-kind batik garments for men and women infused with the spirit, and artwork of Polynesia. The designs are printed on natural fabrics including cotton, rayon, silk, linen, and bamboo-viscose-spandex blend. The women’s styles are designed to wear fitted. They feature sashes and extra fabric to tie around the waist, neck or bust, instead of using zippers or other fasteners.

In addition to aloha shirts for men and billowing, flowing dresses and pareo for women, Noa Noa also offers swimwear, artifacts of Oceania, and handmade jewelry. The timeless, in-store displays include interesting and unique pieces, such as 12th to 19th century Chinese and Thai ceramics, Ikat weaving, ceremonial masks from Borneo, Java, and Papua New Guinea, and Sumatran baskets and drums. The boutique also carries an extensive collection of tapa cloth from Fiji, Samoa, Borneo, Toraja, Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya. The exclusive jewelry pieces are made of gold, silver, and natural materials, and hand-selected from Indonesia, Burma, Mexico, Morocco, and Africa.

Smoyer finds inspiration for her clothing from the kapa patterns of Hawaiʻi and greater Polynesia. These early cultures found inspiration for their patterned artwork from the sky, the mountains, the flora, and the ocean. Tap into the cultural creativity at Noa Noa and find your next inspiration and come back decked in threads rooted in history.