Goodwill’s Glamour Guru
Local fashion designer Kini Zamora has made his name — a name of Project Runway fame — for his sophisticated styles. But currently, Zamora is producing a show that’s a bit of a departure from his usual high fashion: All the pieces his team of designers are working with have been found at Goodwill Hawaii stores.
It’s all part of the annual Goodwill Goes GLAM! event, which raises funds for Goodwill by selling items that have been pulled from its local retail shops. The event, now in its fifth year, returns to the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall July 21-24, kicking off with the Zamora-produced fashion show at 7 p.m. July 21. This year’s show, “Doll Me Up,” focuses on upcycling. All proceeds go toward Goodwill’s programs, which include job training, counseling, education and placement services for at-risk youths, people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, individuals transitioning from public assistance or post-incarceration, and more.
“Funds earned during Goodwill Goes GLAM! go to support Goodwill Hawaii’s mission to help people with employment barriers reach their full potential and become self-sufficient,” explains Goodwill Hawaii director of public relations and communications Kelley Cho.
In line with the sort of nice-guy persona that helped him become a fan favorite on Project Runway, Zamora got involved with the event as a way to not only support Goodwill’s mission and help the organization raise money, but also to bolster the careers of other fashion designers. The team he is working with on the opening-night fashion show is comprised of 14 up-and-coming designers — a mix of keiki and adults — that Zamora is guiding through the process.
“I love that Goodwill is helping people (with) job placement or giving them the skills to (get a job) because it is really hard to even get a job right now,” Zamora says.
The event is just one way that Zamora is helping other designers. His newly opened Halawa retail-shop-meets-workspace The Clique by KZ is a shared space where various fashion professionals work.
“I want to give an opportunity for other designers — I am all for using my name to promote other people as well,” he says.
Zamora has been pursuing fashion so long that it’s a choice he can’t even consciously remember making — he is not sure when or why the interest was sparked, but just that images of clothing often would appear to him and he’d sketch the ideas he had. (His mother tells him that when he was young, he was never all that interested in toys, opting instead to scope out pens and paper.)
By the time Zamora was just 10 years old, his aunt already knew that it was time to teach him to sew. She started sewing lessons for Zamora and all his cousins. But while the other kids soon abandoned the activity, Zamora was enthralled with it. He loved being able to sew the images he’d sketch — a way, as he phrases it, “to press print on my brain.”
“The first time I sewed something and I could see my sketch come to life, I could actually show people what was going on in my mind,” he recalls. “And that is where I really fell in love with design.”
He went on to study fashion at Honolulu Community College, and later, at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
After graduating, he returned home and was working retail while trying to launch his own brand.
When he got cast on Project Runway in 2014, his career expedited quickly. Suddenly, he was thrust onto a stage with millions of viewers. It provided, he says, “the biggest jump in my career.” The exposure was so significant that he decided to go through it all a second time, signing on for season five of Project Runway All Stars, which just wrapped in May.
Throughout his stints on the show, Zamora garnered a reputation as upbeat and friendly, earning him a spot as a fan favorite, despite falling short of winning both times. But, he says, it was worth it for the amount of exposure that it got him — and for another, larger reason: to expand people’s perceptions of the type of fashions that can come out of the Islands. He’s encountered people who have a certain idea of Hawaii fashion — like muumuus and tropical prints — but he wants to prove that it goes beyond that.
In the time since he finished taping Project Runway All Stars, Zamora has been busy. He recently launched his fall/winter 2016 collection, a vibrant alternative to the drab colors that typically populate the time of year (“everyone needs a pop of color and excitement during that gloomy season,” he says), and he’s already getting to work on the spring/summer 2017 collection.
And in March, he opened The Clique by KZ, a multi-faceted space that is partly his own personal workshop, partly a co-working space and partly a retail shop. Zamora himself works out of the space, and it also houses a cadre of other designers, photographers and hair and makeup professionals — all of whom work independently, but also provide Zamora with a one-stop shop when he needs their services.
“It’s a space where a bunch of creative people come and we basically work under one roof and we create art,” he says. “Being around other creative people just helps you out and it fuels the fire, so why not invite them into my space?”
In that spirit, the retail shop not only carries Zamora’s own brand, but he also has brought in a number of other designers — many of them local — to sell their products. (He doesn’t even charge them rent, just a commission on their sales.)
“I know people who just do pop-up shops here and there, which is only maybe once or twice a month,” he explains. “So I give them the opportunity where they can sell 365 days a year.”
Instead of styling the Goodwill Goes GLAM! show himself again like he did last year, Zamora wanted to take the opportunity to involve aspiring designers, as a way to give them practical experience and a chance to showcase their own work.
“We have amazing talent here and I wanted to show that to the world,” he says. “I wanted to give an opportunity for other designers to showcase what they can do as well.”
One designer from each category will be awarded a scholarship — $300 for one keiki designer, and $1,200 for an adult designer — based on their performance in the Goodwill show.
In the meantime, Zamora has taken a hands-on approach as their mentor. He’s been working with the group for the past few months, guiding them through the process — pulling pieces from Goodwill, sketching, casting models.
“Being under the watchful eye of Kini Zamora is inspiring and motivating,” says Matt Batulayan, a recent graduate of Honolulu Community College’s fashion tech program who is in the process of launching his own label. “His discerning and critical eye has proven very insightful in regard to balancing ambition and creativity with marketability.”
For Zamora, he hopes that the event will help propel these early-stage designers into being able to make a living out of their passion.
“My involvement with the designers is to give them my knowledge — whatever little tricks that I can give them or any insight on being a fashion designer … and give them a push to help further their career and show them that it is possible to be a fashion designer here in Hawaii.”
For more information on Goodwill Goes GLAM!, visit higoodwill.org. For more on Kini Zamora, visit kinizamora.com.
Here are a few things we learned about Kini Zamora’s stints on the show.
THE CONFLICT IS REAL.
During his recent run on Project Runway All Stars, many of the cast members did not get along with a competitor named Sam Donovan. While certain aspects of the situation may have been played up, Zamora says the roots of it were real.
“That was all pretty accurate,” he says. “Certain things that he would do off camera were different than what he was doing on camera, so that would kind of play us wrong. We felt like we saw a different side of him.”
WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET.
While some reality shows tell their stars to act in a certain way, Zamora says that was not the case here. The Zamora you see on the show is the same one you’d meet in real life.
“I was totally myself on the show, that was 100 percent me,” he says. “I wasn’t told to be someone else.”
While he says that he doesn’t refute anything he said or did on the show, there were some liberties taken in post-production. Zamora works fast — something his co-stars often would comment on — so while others were still working, he was often just waiting around.
“A lot of times I would sit at my table staring because there was nothing else to do,” he recalls. “In (All Stars) season, they edited me to be staring a lot while people were doing their critiques. So it looked like I was staring at their things and judging them, but really I was just bored.”
‘DOLL ME UP’
Last year, when Kini Zamora was asked to work on the fashion show for Goodwill Goes GLAM! for the first time, he was excited — but he wasn’t sure what he’d find in sourcing all of his materials from Goodwill stores.
“I thought it was going to be kind of rough to find certain things,” he recalls. “The first time I went in (to a store), I was in awe because there were amazing things … not only designer things, but no-name pieces that I could mix and match … There is some awesome stuff that you can find at Goodwill if you have time to look through the racks.”
This year’s show, “Doll Me Up,” takes that one step further. By focusing on upcycling, this fashion show depicts how you can get creative with items you might find at Goodwill.
“All too easy nowadays is it to buy things off the rack while tossing away the old,” says participating designer Matt Batulayan. “Being that the focus is to upcycle garments and redesign them, hopefully we designers can inspire people to go out and create something that is uniquely and truly their own while funding back into the community.”
“Thrifting and upcycling is such a huge thing that is happening these days,” Zamora adds. “People are on a budget and why not show people what they can find in Goodwill and show them that they can cut stuff up and change things and make it their own on a budget — and make it look fabulous.”