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Special time for holiday shopping

An array of locally made products is artfully displayed throughout the Hui No‘eau beginning Monday through Dec. 24. -- Photo courtesy Hui No‘eau

As the air gets a bit crisper, if only at night, and the malls prepare for Santa’s visit, another sure sign of the approaching holiday season is the flurry of activity happening at the Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center in Makawao as it gears up for its annual shopping extravaganza, Hui Holidays.

Residents and repeat visitors alike know the Hui is one of the best places to pick up unique, one-of-a-kind items for everyone on your gift list. With extended shopping hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, beginning Monday and running through Dec. 24, the Hui’s gift shop expands into more rooms that are filled to the brim with hand-made delights from local artists and crafters.

A highlight of Hui Holidays is the much anticipated “First Night.” Set this year from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28, “First Night” is a ticketed special evening where shoppers enjoy drinks, pupu prepared by Tim Garcia and festive background music surrounded by the dramatically decorated historic Kaluanui estate. Guests enjoy special pop-up vendors and have first access to the Hui’s beautiful and highly sought-after handmade wreaths.

“First Night” also marks what has become a valued tradition at the Hui — the official unveiling of the enchanting paper dress. For the past seven years, the Hui invites one local designer to create a magical dress made out of paper.

“Historically, the Hui’s paper dress is created as a reminder that beautiful things can be made out of the simplest elements, such as paper,” explained Hui No’eau Executive Director Caroline Killhour. “It is a reminder that the holidays and holiday gift giving can be a reflection of a person’s ingenuity, talent and creativity — all things that are fostered at Hui No’eau!”

Designer Jennifer Oberg -- Photo courtesy the designer

This year’s designer, Jennifer Oberg, is well-known to local brides and anyone looking for a special occasion dress. Oberg’s atelier is located in Makawao on the second floor at 3660 Baldwin Ave. For over 27 years, she has perfected her skills as a dressmaker, patternmaker and costume-shop workroom supervisor.

As a young girl, Oberg was entranced by her mother’s sewing machine — her Swedish grandmother had been a dressmaker. She would design and make fanciful costumes for all her dolls.

Oberg believes “sewing, draping and patternmaking is something that is naturally in your hands. . . . Your passion drives your learning.”

She attended the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles, and took professional patternmaking classes at London College of Fashion in England. Oberg is quick to point out that she learned the most “by apprenticing with amazing dressmakers, drapers and tailors in theater, opera and Hollywood costume shops. . . . Apprenticing is the gold standard when working with your hands.”

Should anyone think, “Pah, a dress made of paper. How fancy can that be,” take a look at the photos at left of the dresses from the past two years. Their beauty is much like a flower lei — meant to be enjoyed for a brief period, then all that remains are memories and, if lucky, a photo.

Enchanting paper dresses from the past two years include one by Melody Koerber from 2016. -- Photo courtesy Hui No‘eau

Oberg has lived nearly continuously on Maui with her husband, Craig Mullins (a movie concept designer, illustrator and artist), and their two daughters since 2001. There was a brief foray to Denver in 2015, but the family missed Maui and returned after six months.

She was invited last summer to design this year’s dress, and has spent several months planning the design. She had to close her atelier for two weeks while she executed the design — a 1920s Art Deco-style dress with opera cloak.

She describes the dress as reminiscent of the sophisticated designs of French artist and designer Erte.

“His designs are elegant and timeless,” noted Oberg. “A woman who loves fashion could wear them today, looking modern and glamorous. [Erte] also designed for ballet, film and opera, which appeals to me because of my background working in film and opera costume houses.”

Curious about the difficulty of creating a dress out of paper, Oberg explained that she looked for papers which draped and folded like fabric.

In 2017 designer Koa Johnson of Kojo Couture took on the challenge. -- The Maui News / CATHERINE KENAR photo

“For the dress, I used a beautiful crepe paper that provided flexibility to hug the lovely curves of the female form,” she described. “For the opera cloak, I found a dreamy Japanese lace paper that is delicate and diaphanous.”

She assembled the dress and cloak using a combination of sewing and gluing techniques.

Sadly, the dress is not for sale to wear, so you’ll have to find other things to purchase such as paintings, ceramic pieces, handblown glass ornaments, jewelry, locally made beauty products and much more. Best of all, when you shop at the Hui, all the money you spend stays here on Maui — you’ll take part in the season of giving by supporting local artists and Hui No’eau.

“First Night” is a 21 and older event. Tickets are $30. Hui No’eau is located at 2841 Baldwin Ave. For more information, call 572-6560 or visit www.huinoeau.com.

* Catherine Kenar can be reached at ckenar@mauinews.com.

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