What is Malia made of?

She's made of shells from the outer islands of Tahiti. All of the colors you see are natural! Mother Nature is truly amazing!

How long did this top take to make?

The idea was born a few years ago but I spent about 6 months on and off  piercing and sewing this piece. 

What inspired this piece?

The shells themselves initially. I found their colors so magical I wanted to create something beautiful to honor them. Then I found inspiration in the reef triggerfish because it shares the same colors as the shells. I sketched a design trying to combine it all and ran with the idea. 

How did you make Malia?

Each shells is pierced individually. I then sewed them by 3s, 5s, or in florets. Since each kind of shell behaves differently they each have to be treated with different sewing techniques. 

What training did you have that helped you make this piece?

I think my training at Parsons helped a great deal. I used draping, pattern making, and sewing skills I learned in class. Working for Vera Wang also trained me to be sensitive to detail. All of this along with my informal training making shell leis and beading growing up gave me both the abilities and confidence to see this dress through.

What were some challenges you faced during its construction?

One of the main obstacles was that the top progressively shrank as I continued to embroider shells. Consequently, the dress form was no longer appropriate to use and I had to adjust by using an alternate model for the shoot. 

Another challenge was transporting the piece with me in order to work on it where I went. It's extremely fragile. 

What's next?

The dress isn't actually finished. There is a matching pencil skirt I will continue to work on. Until then, pencil sea urchin spines have been really inspiring me lately. I think my next endeavor will somehow incorporate them.