Anybody in Hawaii’s fashion industry who pays attention not only knows who Lynne O’Neill is, they look up to her like a benevolent queen of fashion show production, generous with wisdom and encouragement.
O’Neill was born in Honolulu, grew up for a time in southern California, and has gone on to produce 14 to 17 fashion shows per season during each New York Fashion Week through her company, Hula, Inc. Her clients have included BCBG Max Azria, Behnaz Serafpour, Herve Leger, Vivienne Tam, Tommy Hilfiger, and Catherine Malandrino, among many others. Her career includes launch events with the Rolling Stones and Usher for Best Buy; fashion show consulting for CW’s “Gossip Girl,” Bravo’s “The Fashion Show” and “Sex and the City: The Movie.” O’Neill was the inspiration for the Margaret Cho character in HBO’s “Sex and the City” episode, “The Real Me,” and was also the fashion show consultant (Although Cho’s assertive, encouraging “Lynne Cameron” wasn’t too far from the original, O’Neill doesn’t use the f-word nearly as often).
O’Neill is a member of the Hawaii Fashion Incubator’s (Hifi) Advisory Board and serves on the Hawaii Fashion Month (HFM) Steering Committee, and hosted the first mentor workshop as part of Hifi’s Hawaii Fashion Exchange. But the truth is she never set out to produce fashion shows; she kind of stumbled into it.
After time working parts of the California art museum circuit, she found herself working a temp job that turned into five years at Macy’s as an events producer. But after some self-reflection time in Japan, O’Neill wanted to spend the next chapter of her life as a housewife. Her reputation from those days at Macy’s, however, kept her phone ringing and, she said to Hana Hou!, her career “all happened because I really didn’t want to do it. That’s kind of how it works for me.”
Today, she is one of the most in-demand producers in the industry internationally.
Hana Hou! editor Julia Steele writes that, in the ‘80s, “you either learned to make clothes or sell clothes, and that was it.”
Times have changed. In addition to the designers and storefronts, Hawaii’s fashion industry now supports anyone from makeup artists to models, photographers, stylists, and event producers who are building client lists big enough to make a living.
The Hawaii Fashion Exchange is the connection between all of these professions, a resource for anyone who needs to tap into the wealth of local talent. You’re a producer and your friend wants to showcase her new bikini line, but you need a venue? What about models and photography? When it launches later this summer, HFX will have the answers.
Additionally, to fulfill Hifi’s ethos of elevating the fashion scene here, HFX will produce a series of workshops. The first, held in April, was hosted by O’Neill and sold out immediately. Hifi originally capped her workshop at 20 participants, but extended it to 25, and then again to 30, due to demand.
Danene Lunn, the designer behind Manuhealii and an attendee at O’Neill’s workshop, recently showcased her work at Maoli Arts Month’s Wearable Art Show. Designers showed their fashion on a runway at the Hawaii Theatre, and Lunn’s section featured a surprise choreographed dance routine.
“Lynne O’Neill was HUGE on my mind the entire time we were designing & planning,” Lunn told us. “We really worked on our timing to create a ‘show’ that the audience would enjoy while still showcasing ‘fashion.’”