Finding the Thread with Rumi Murakami


Designer Rumi Murakami, long time BoxJelly resident Atelier, is creating clothing that merges high quality, timeless design with functionality and comfort. Taking inspiration from Hawaii’s tropical climate and growing urban environment, Rumi keeps her designs clean and cool. She aims to create clothing that is wearable without sacrificing style. She and Matt Bruening recently teamed up for a runway show at the Hawaii State Art Museum where their collections were turning a lot of heads. This week, she’ll be launching her online store. We had a chance to sit down with Rumi to talk about the show and her design practice.

You had show at the HiSAM in November 2018. Could you tell me about what inspired the work?

Rumi: The name of the show collection is Paper. Matt Bruening approached me about doing the show. Aly Ishikuni, co-founder of Art+Flea and Mori, got approval from the museum and we held it there. For this collection, I tried to think about using the fabric like paper, so I tried to stay really like angular, square and simple. Nothing too literal. I like things that have a little more subtle message.

In addition to that theme, I want clothing and fashion to be accessible to everyone and I think the museum during First Friday was a good venue to show the people that fashion is a viable business in Hawaii and that it doesnʻt need to be about aloha wear or ocean culture.


What is your workflow and how do you project manage?

R: I'm much better if I have a deadline otherwise I can drag the process. I think with a lot of creative processes, it's hard to tell when you're done. Typically for fashion when you're dealing with a collection, you have your theme and your fabrics.  I enjoy the process of being limited to the fabrics. By that I mean picking out fabrics and trying to stay within the theme and again, try not be too literal with the theme either.

In the end, people have to wear these clothes so they have to make sense This is where I feel like art and design kind of go their separate ways. I don't consider what I do art really. It's definitely more design because it's got to be functional. It has to be practical, it can't be so weird that it's distracting or you can't move around in it.I want the clothes to be easy to wear but,I also want to offer something a little different and possesses a timeless quality. I also want everything to have pockets. If I can get a pocket in there, there’s going to be pocket there because it is necessary.


Has being in located in Hawaii influenced your designs?

R: Absolutely. I'm originally from northern California originally and so everything was lines and really tailored and layers and buttoned up colors. The environment and the culture has forced me to simplify my designs. We're in a tropical climate and because of that we're casual. I want to make tailored separates work in this climate. I still do some of things that I did in California, but it took me years to understand even how to dress myself here and what works and what doesn’t.

What do you want your viewer to understand about your work?

R: I think it’s important that the person who is wearing the clothes feels good. I use really high quality fabrics and natural fibers like cotton and linen. I want my work to come across as quality and really well fitting clothes. Clothes are supposed to feel good and make you feel good, right?


Do you have any advice to anyone who's an aspiring designer?

R: Just keep working, keep doing, and keep producing. Even if you start small. Even if it's a couple t-shirts or a couple pairs of shorts. Whatever it is that you're doing, just start small and keep working. It takes a lot of hard work and you have to persevere. Talk to as many people as you can. When someone asks you what are you up to, reply like you own it. It took me a while to finally say that I'm a clothing designer. You have to  say it, claim it and put in the work.

Establishing yourself takes time. Everything takes longer than you think it's going to. You have to establish your reputation so people trust you. This means as a designer, you have to be in it for the long haul.

Check out Rumiʻs online store!