Maui Time

Hawaii designers turn old Hawaiian Airlines interisland airline seats into high fashion

Ever sat down in a commercial airliner and thought that the seat fabric might make a great pair of pants? Or a bustier? It may seem slightly unusual, but Hawaiian Airlines–which recently changed out the cabin seats in its interisland fleet–thought that fashion students might help them deal with their now overwhelming supply of old seats.

“In March, Hawaiian began retrofitting its Neighbor Island fleet with a modern redesign featuring lightweight main cabin seats from Acro Aircraft Seating Ltd.,” states a Nov. 18 press release from the airline. “The partnership with HonCC [Honolulu Community College] and The Cut Collective to repurpose large amounts of unused seat material was seen as a fun and creative way to demonstrate social and environmental responsibility.”

Apparently, the students responded quite enthusiastically to the challenge.

“I got a call from Hawaiian Airlines asking if we had any students or alumni that could do an upcycle challenge, and I thought, with what? They explained that student designers would be given first and coach class seat covers to create wearable clothing,” said Joy Nagaue, professor of the Fashion Technology Program at Honolulu Community College, said in the Nov. 18 press release. “I accepted–our students can do anything! I’m overjoyed they’ve been given this great opportunity.”

Seven designers from the school then set out to make actual, wearable garments from 19 First Class and 23 Main Cabin seats and headrests. Here are the details on the three designs depicted in the above photo (and their designers), straight from the Hawaiian Airlines press release:

• (Left) RANDY ORIBELLO, 2014 HonCC Fashion Technology Program Graduate–Oribello’s womenswear “patchwork” bustier is layered with strips of main cabin seat covers paired with a short skirt and peplum.

“I describe my design style as historical vintage chic. My pieces are modern, wearable and have structure. For this project I have constructed a corset mixing both the first and the coach class seat material,” said Oribello, who works in the costume department at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa on O‘ahu’s west coast.

• (Middle) CHAI LIM, 2013 HonCC Fashion Technology Program Graduate–Inspired by the notion of air and flying, Lim’s garment is represented by an airy, flowing short skirt paired with a clean, structured strapless top. Lim works at Tori Richards, a resort lifestyle clothing line, as a Gerber pattern technician.

“It’s an honor to be selected for this challenge!” said Lim, who viewed Hawaiian Airlines Cabin[to]Couture project as a way of giving back to the community and the program that helped him pursue his passion.

• (Right) JACKY LAU, 2013 HonCC Fashion Technology Program Graduate–Lau was inspired by the shapes within the seat covers and created a futuristic tail jacket paired with fitted cargo pants lined with pocket details.

“I’ve been intrigued with design due to my interest in Cosplay,” said Lau, a sales associate at Macy’s.

Not trusting my own, extremely limited fashion sensibilities on this one, I forwarded the press release to former Maui musician Erin Smith–who today lives on Oahu where she plays music and writes the Heels & Picks fashion/music blog for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser‘s Honolulu Pulse website–to get her take.

“I love everything about this idea,” Smith told me. “It ties Hawaiian Airlines into Fashion Week in an authentic way, bringing their brand into the fold of what’s actually happening in fashion, rather than just sponsoring from afar.  Plus, that blue dress is snappy little number and I think I need that blue jacket.”

All the designs will be on display during Honolulu Fashion Week (which is sponsored by Hawaiian Airlines, of course) Nov. 20-22 at the Hawaii Convention Center. For more information, go to

Photo (L to R) of design concepts by Honolulu Community College Fashion Technology Program graduates Randy Oribello, Chai Lim and Jacky Lau courtesy Hawaiian Airlines