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Ahola (Aloha Backwards): Social Practice Fashion Honolulu Style

by Henry Navarro Delgado

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To non-residents, Hawaii embodies the archetypical tourist destination – erupting volcanoes, magnificent beaches, surfing lifestyle and hula dancers; a year-around place of adventure, romance and relaxation; and the perfect setting for advertisements and movie fantasies. However, the realities of contemporary life in Hawaii are quite different from those idyllic visions. The site-specific public fashion project Ahola (Aloha Backwards) mined these dichotomies by integrating fashion design, public art and collaborative teaching methodologies to engage the local community. In so doing, Ahola adapted a Social Practice Fashion framework to the cultural context of Hawaii while providing informal, community-centred professional training for aspiring local fashion entrepreneurs. Through its use of Collaborative Learning methods, this participatory fashion project expanded teaching beyond traditional academic settings, while simultaneously empowering Honolulu residents by allowing their direct input at every stage of the project.

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