Changing local fashion scene with unique boutique

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For petite women, finding clothing that fits can be a difficult task. It’s a predicament that Sacred Hearts Academy alumna Allison Izu Song became all too familiar with growing up. She often had trouble finding clothes to suit her 5-foot-2-inch frame. That is, until she created her own clothing line.

Clothing for the petite

I was interested in the aspect of creating something that you designed and imagined…making (people) love and appreciate their bodies–flaws and all–by giving them clothing that fits properly and that makes them feel confident,” said Song, who graduated from the Academy in 1994.

She created “Allison Izu” in 2008 for women 5 feet 6 inches and shorter. Through her line, she changes the proportions of each pattern so that it not only suits those “vertically-challenged,” as she puts it, but fits the curves of the waist and hips as well.

The collection can be found at Nordstrom in Hawaii and nationally, at It includes classic–yet edgy–pieces made of delicate fabrics that fit and flatter.

A shared workspace

Following the success of her petite clothing line, Song soon found herself exploring a completely different aspect of the industry; this project was not only new to her but also to Hawaii’s fashion scene. She and local stylist Summer Shiigi teamed up to form a shared workspace for Hawaii fashion designers. They called it, The Cut Collective.

The space, located at Ward Warehouse, is a first of its kind for the state. It aims to resolve issues that local fashion designers often face and does this by providing design tools, such as cutting tables and industrial sewing machines, as well as resources for sourcing and production. They also provide internship programs for fashion students and tours of the space to local high schools.

“You could read a book on how to start a brand, but that doesn’t really apply to a Hawaii person and a Hawaii brand,” Song said. “It’s nice to be able to give feedback on, not just how to do it, but what mistakes I made along the way.”

Her partner Shiigi has received much of Song’s guidance over the years. As a stylist and fashion blogger, Shiigi was new to the world of designing.

“I’ve learned so much from Allison,” Shiigi said. “She has not only been a great mentor and role model but also someone I hope to emulate through my business and just everyday life, in general.”

A unique storefront

A fashion student uses the store’s workspace, which is located near garments available for purchase.

Over the summer, the fashion duo took it one step further by adding a retail section to the workspace. Vibrant patterns and prints now color the sleek, white space, welcoming customers to this unique storefront.

Shoppers are able to experience the behind-the-scenes magic that goes into creating a fashion brand, as hand-drawn sketches pinned up on walls and designers cutting fabrics show the intricate process of design.

Customers might also see Song or Shiigi working with clients; both of whom sell their clothing lines at The Collective.

Life after the Academy

Song began her journey as an entrepreneur at the Academy but admits that she did not think fashion was a possible career.

“When I told people I wanted to become a fashion designer, they thought I would hem pants or open a dress shop,” she said. “They couldn’t perceive what it meant to be a fashion designer.”

After graduating from the Academy, she attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa. That’s where she took her first sewing class, instantly falling in love with fashion. Her inspiration then took her to New York, where she pursued her newfound dream of becoming a fashion designer.

For Song, the structure of the Academy and its all-girl environment helped her to thrive in the fashion world. She credits the Academy for giving her the confidence to pursue a career she previously thought was out of reach and encouraging her to dream big.

In particular, Song recalls learning about running a business in Economics class. Part of the assignment included creating a fictional brand. Her brand produced and sold cosmetic bags. For Song, it was a great way to practice being an entrepreneur. The lesson strengthened what she already knew; that she loved running her own business.

“(Today), I am most driven by the customers, the people who wear my clothing,” Song said. “I love to hear their feedback and get their suggestions (because) it helps me to be a better designer, and it helps my brand to grow and expand.”

The Collective, located at Ward Warehouse in Honolulu, is a boutique that’s changing the local fashion scene, as not only a retail space but a resource for up-and-coming designers as well.