Artist helps merchants express personality, thanks

By Nadine Kam / nkam@staradvertiser.com on April 23, 2014

Whether he’s working with artisans from Paris or jewelry designers closer to home, Sig Zane never forgets his roots. The local artist and cultural practitioner’s expertise is in demand as more corporations embrace a sense of place as an expression of connection to the community.

Two decades ago the idea of creating a sense of place was confined to Waikiki and resorts required to sell Hawaii as a destination, but the idea is catching on as a reaction to an increasingly impersonal world, to foster a sense of attachment and belonging.

On television you can’t miss the Hawaiian Electric commercials describing Zane and his family’s design of the utility’s new logo, which draws on the visionary spirit of King Kalakaua, who sought both to revive ancient chants and to move into the future, bringing electricity to Iolani Palace.

Two more recent projects include the introduction of two lehua pendants in collaboration with Koa Nani, timed to the Merrie Monarch Festival, and the debut of Lei Pua Ilima artwork to commemorate the grand reopening of the newly designed Louis Vuitton Ala Moana store and its new Haute Maroquinerie made-to-order leather goods department. (Learn more at fashiontribe.staradvertiserblogs.com.)

At Louis Vuitton, regional vice president Dale Ruff said that given the brand’s worldwide presence, creating a sense of place within the Hawaii store gives it a distinctive personality, and stems from the desire to “provide customers with a unique experience that’s meaningful to them.”

Zane said the artwork pays tribute to the ilima, the flower of Oahu, that grew in abundance in the area where the LV store and shopping center now stands.

Accompanying the artwork is Zane’s original Hawaiian chant “Ka Lanakila Pio,” expressing the story behind the commemorative work. The chant is written on a kapa pattern, comprising traditional Hawaiian symbols of spear, pathway, waves and mountains, that resemble the Louis Vuitton damier pattern.

At Koa Nani, Zane collaborated with jewelry designer and president Brian Hee to develop two pendant designs to honor two halau that have been a part of the Merrie Monarch Festival since its beginnings: Edith Kanaka’ole’s Halau o Kekuhi and Uncle Johnny Lum Ho’s Halau Ka Ua Kani Lehua. A portion of each sale will go to the Edith Kanaka’ole Foundation and kumu Lum Ho as a thank-you for their teaching.

The “Pawalu” collection reflects the number eight. “For the Chinese it’s a lucky number. For Chinese and Hawaiians, it’s never-ending, infinitely going round and round, and we’re using this as a reciprocal collection to give back to those who taught us.”

Small sterling silver pendants will sell for $188, and larger ones will sell for $288. There will also be one in each size made in yellow and rose gold, selling for $1,800 and $3,800.

The pendants are the work of Zane’s son Kuhao and Brandy Serikaku, design directors for Sig Zane Designs in Hilo. Both feature the liko lehua, or lehua bud.

“It’s a metaphor to nourish and nurture your child, and they will grow,” Zane said.

Serikaku’s draws from a design Zane created for Lum Ho in the 1980s, symbolic of the Hilo rain that falls on the lehua and enables it to grow.

A dancer with Lum Ho, Serikaku said creating the pendant was her way of thanking her mentor. “I would not be here today if not for him. He made me fall in love with the Hawaiian language, the culture, and put it all together.”

Kuhao’s piece features buds of the lehua against a graphic background of stylized fisherman’s net. The backdrop draws from a woodblock print created by his grandfather in the 1970s, and the design was created to represent both his grandfather and grandmother, and the cycle of life.

The pieces will be available at Sig Zane Designs in Hilo during the Merrie Monarch Festival, and any remaining pieces may be available at Koa Nani, in Royal Hawaiian Center, after the event.

Zane said he wants to instill a legacy of giving back, beyond our shores.

“We have a very good following in Japan, where they love the hula, but we want to show that reciprocation, giving back, is just as important.”

Sig Zane Designs is at 122 Kamehameha Ave., Hilo. Call 935-7077.