Ariyaphon Southiphong's line, Andy South, continues to introduce beautiful menswear and womenswear in Hawai‘i, and soon, around the world.
Back to work at her atelier in the heart of urban Honolulu, Ariyaphon Southiphong (Ari, to her friends) is returning from fashion week in El Paseo, California, where she was given a standing ovation for her spring and summer collections. “The way it’s built out is the closest thing I’ve seen to New York Fashion Week,” she says. “We’re doing well at Neiman Marcus and our clientele remains consistent in Hawai‘i, but now it’s time to pick up more work, other markets.”
It’s hard to imagine Ari working any harder. After becoming a household name as a top contestant on Project Runway, recently competing on the show’s All Stars season, creating her own fashion house, and changing genders, Ari has rarely stopped to appreciate the whirlwind of influence she has created in Honolulu’s burgeoning fashion scene. With nearly a dozen full-time employees, attendants, and students, the Andy South atelier has grown as a production house, manufacturing a range of local fashion from Sig Zane Designs alohawear to the Punahou School marching band uniforms. In 2013, Ari began producing menswear for her Andy South brand. Featuring handsomely tailored shirts with twin pockets and linen blends, the line is a nod to the un-tucked formality popular in the temporal tropics, a worthy successor to the Reyn Spooner and Alfred Shaheen lines now considered classic Hawaiiana. For the pool, a swimwear line is in the works. “Of course it will be skimpy, tight, and tailored,” she says with a laugh.
A few years into her success, Ari remains diligent, wary of the ways fashion can chew up individuals. “Especially if it’s a luxury brand, mo’ money mo’ problems,” she says of her profession. “The criticisms of people in the industry are real, about how people are fake, because really folks are chasing a fantasy. … It’s tough to pretend to maintain a lifestyle you don’t have.” Ari remains the type that prefers a brutal truth over a convenient fantasy, a trait her customers, fans, and colleagues have come to value. In truth, her clothes are beautiful.