As the son of celebrated Hawaiian artist Sig Zane, Hilo boy Kuhao Zane has some big shoes to fill—and that he does. His lineage and his experience working for his father’s iconic aloha wear company—one that started more than three decades ago—has given him a profound respect for the past and he’s using it to shape the future. For instance, it was Kuhao that brought Sig Zane’s coveted designs from Hilo to Honolulu, in the form of a 500-square-foot shop that’s only open on Fridays. The Chinatown boutique creatively incorporates Hawaiian history and culture. Below, Kuhao talks about his inspiration, his love and appreciation for the art of hula, and his island upbringing.
You know, Hawaii island is full of gems. Without giving any of them away, take a drive, be respectful and leave the place better than when you arrived.
Q: How does Hawaii inspire your work?
A: It does inspire, but more importantly, I feel it grounds my being. My understanding of lineage, practice and place allows for an open canvas of sprouting ideas!
Q: Who is your biggest inspiration and why?
A: On a day-to-day basis I have many that inspire me—from rappers to elementary teachers—I feel in the sense of “inspiring” me to put in more work, it would be to live up to the people that came before me and to create an open space for those that work with me.
Q: Growing up in Hawaii has taught you to...
A: Growing up in Hilo taught me a regard for the environment. With land that is fire under your feet, a sacred mountain that can move weather systems, and a bay that is open to the largest swells and tsunamis, itʻs an understanding of our small place in this world… Also, it’s a reminder of our role of reciprocity in our environment.
Q: What are some of your personal favorite activities to do on the island?
A: I recently started bowhunting and am building a whole new respect for new areas and species of our island. Besides that, my dad moved here to surf, camp and holoholo, so basically all of the above.
Q: Where do you live and what do you love most about your neighborhood?
A: I live on Front Street in Keaukaha, Hilo. Keaukaha, as George Helm sang, is a famous place amongst the Hawaiian community. Besides the people, I love the amount of creativity that has poured out of this community in song and hula. As far as the island itself? I love the fact that it’s alive! It’s changing, expanding and literally chants are still being written about this inspirational island.
Q: Where/how can visitors experience hula? (visually or by participating)
A: I think the best way if you were new to hula would be to do a little research online maybe a few Merrie Monarch youtube videos. Then to actually attend Merrie Monarch week with the shopping, music and of course hula. Hilo has a buzz that is completely unique!
Q: Your favorite breakfast spot is...
A: Iʻm not going to say what the name is, but he's a super cool uncle that has a small 8-seat breakfast spot near the market in Hilo. Good luck.
Q: Your go-to lunch spot is...
A: This one I can say: PukaPuka Kitchen in downtown Hilo!
Q: Dinner is usually...
A: Moon & Turtle in Hilo, and on special nights, if you're lucky, Takenoko.
Q: After work we can find you at...
A: Still at work… But on Mondays and Wednesdays, I’m at hula practice.
Q: What are some local brands/Who are some local talents we should know about?
A: I definitely have to big up our team first - our graphic designer/artist Brandy-Alia Serikaku. Some of the voices I feel are essential: Malani from Homesteady out of Hilo, and I've really been liking the boys at Salvage Public.
Q: Where do you go to "get away" (in Hawaii):
A: You know, Hawaii Island is full of gems. Without giving any of them away, take a drive, be respectful and leave the place better than when you arrived.