In 1987 when Hilo clothing designer Sig Zane began experimenting with fabric, he told another interviewer was because he “wanted to create gifts of love.” His designs for men and women are always linked to Hawaiian culture and hula (his wife is Kumu Nalani Kanaka`ole and his son Kuhao, COO, also dances), most often featuring designs of Native Hawaiian flora, and other everyday yet meaningful objects like eucalyptus seeds, as well as local places. Because Zane grounds his designs in the land, he focuses on educating others this way about culture and principles and values through plants.

We talked last October about one place he gets inspiration, and I include the full interview below.

What I’m Reading | Sig Zane

Q&A with Christine Thomas
October 2007

–What are you reading?

There is one book that I always refer to and that is “The Polynesian Family System in Ka’u Hawaii,” and by E.S. Craighill Handy and Mary Kawena Pukui.

–How did you discover it?

It’s been a book that we’ve referred to many, many times in my family here. My wife’s family is from Ka`u and ohana to Mary Kawena Pukui. What it also does for me is, it’s just a return to reading about the foundation values of the family. I always go back to it. There’s many, many things in there that talk about traditional values, rearing, kinship—just a very important book. It really talks all about life, totally.

–What parts do you often revisit?

Well, one of the last parts I was reading was about the calling out to people when they’re passing the house. You call out and invite them in—it’s a manner of hospitality. I was just reading hat because I needed to share that with somebody, but in a modern day society. I was working with a company with that. I went to tell them that in the old style this is what it was like, but we can still use the same values in today’s society.

–Does this book, as well as your own family, help you to better educate others about Hawaiian values through design?

All the time. Even the Hawaiian dictionary—these are things that are always at my side. I’m always referring to it. It did come about specifically when I met my mother in law. She was the one who told us that we need to share our experiences and our knowledge so that the next generation has something and they know how to practice and know our belief system. It was she, in the mid ‘70s, who told me this and I was so inspired by her. So since then I’ve been doing it.