The fashion show returns with a hopeful theme; So Phis event postponed by 2 years due to pandemic

Models and guests stroll the runway during the finale of the 2022 So-Phis Fashion Show in Anaheim.

By GWEN MURANAKA, Managing Editor of Rafu

ANAHEIM — Two years after the COVID-19 pandemic changed our lives forever, the April 2 So-Phis Fashion Show 2022 theme couldn’t have been more appropriate: “Hope, Dream, Inspire… Lights the Way.”

The event was abruptly canceled in April 2020 and for the 500 attendees at the Hilton Anaheim it was a chance to see people again and enjoy an event that has been raising funds for charity for 62 years.

Stacey Yoshinaga and Rolene Hamamoto, coordinators of the fashion show, greeted the guests with gratitude and emotion.

“Our theme this year is ‘Hope, Dream, Inspires… Lights the Way’ and we felt it was an appropriate theme as it reflects what we at So-Phis are trying to do, which is to improve our world. Our goal with our fashion show is to help pave the way for as many charities as possible,” said Yoshinaga.

The event was held in support of several charities including the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition, represented by June Aochi Berk.

Yoshinaga noted that when So-Phis had to abruptly cancel two years ago, 700 Furoshiki wraps were already printed with the year 2020.

“We ask that you use them as a reminder of what we went through in 2020,” she said. “But I would like to point out that the perishables in the goodie bag are fresh.”

Hamamoto was on the verge of tears as she addressed her greetings to the crowd.

US Olympic gold medalist Sakura Kokumai said she wasn’t quite as confident on the fashion stage as she was in karate after walking the catwalk with Cade Hatsushi.

“We missed face-to-face meetings. We didn’t realize how much we missed it until you were actually able to touch, hug and greet each other, friends and family. It regenerates my soul and I know it does the same for you,” Hamamoto said. “So-Phis is so grateful to all of you for believing in us and supporting us for so many years.”

Helen Ota and Aaron Takahashi served as presenters for the event. Takahashi first appeared in boxer shorts and slippers.

“I thought the fashion show was going to be on Zoom!” he exclaimed.

Attendee numbers were limited due to indoor event requirements and COVID protocols were enforced.

In a slide presentation, So-Phis alluded to the events that have transpired since they last met: the deaths of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, the Black Lives Matter movement, anti-Asian violence and the current crisis in Ukraine as well happier events like the victories of the Dodgers, Lakers and Rams and the Tokyo Olympics.

Ota and Takahashi shared their own news. Ota got married during the pandemic and Takahashi and his wife had a baby girl, Sherilynn, who has bravely endured treatments for brain cancer.

Todd Odagawa is the center of attention and a range of camera phones as he models an upscale comfort look.

“She’s one of the strongest fighters I know… She’s fine now. She has had six rounds of chemo and is on the way to recovery. Thank you So-Phis for your support,” said Takahashi, who shared that the women would bring meals to the family.

After acknowledging the difficulties of the past two years, the show focused on what brought everyone together – good times, colorful fashion and supporting charities that help others in the community.

Representatives from charity groups were introduced including CHOC Children’s Hospital Therapy Dog Program, East West Players, FashUnited, OCO Club, Terasaki Budokan, Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition, Walk the Farm and Zentoku Foundation.

Presenter Helen Ota chats with young models – from left Aiden Kamiyama, Kenzie Kamiyama, Owen Okuno, Landon Tanaka and Alison Okuno.

OCO Kiboh Taiko opened the celebrations, which also featured performances by Brian Yamamoto and Jimmy Ng, as well as dance group Clash Boys.

A number of models walked the runway in designer clothes from Masako Designs, a women’s sportswear label run by Margaret Masako Cummins; Hide and Squeak Kids, a boutique children’s clothing designer in Irvine; and Macy’s. The show also included a boutique and a silent auction.

The men, including Alan Kosaka, Glenn Tanaka and David Yamahata, enjoyed bantering and good-naturedly whistling with the crowd.

Entertainment during the fashion show included OCO Kibou Taiko (above) and dances by the Clash Boys (below) – Evan Nakahara, Christian Kim and Nathan Tran.

Graceful and elegant, the women struck striking poses as participants took photos with their cellphones. Among them, Olympian Sakura Kokumai, who is set to appear in 2020, joined the models on the catwalk and shared her memories of the Tokyo Olympics. Kokumai is no stranger to fashion and became a face of Ralph Lauren during last summer’s games.

Crooner Brian Yamamoto brought some swoons to the evening.

“I was born in Hawaii and grew up in Hawaii and Japan. Representing the United States in Japan, where karate originated, was such an emotional feeling,” Kokumai told the audience.

Speak with The RafuKokumai contrasted the experience of walking the catwalk with a karate competition. Her next big competition is in Portugal. She noted that while American fans saw her on Ralph Lauren billboards, she never got the chance to see them.

“I had a bomb. It’s my first time walking the catwalk. I was nervous at first, but I enjoyed every single second of it,” said Kokumai. “I love fashion. I would love to explore more of it. What I did today was so much fun! I didn’t look as confident as I did in karate, but inside I was so excited!”

Left: Emcee Aaron Takahashi brought his waist-high Zoom meeting style developed during the pandemic. Center: David Yamahata sports the casual look wearing an Aloha shirt, shorts and deck sneakers. Right: Leather is Jaclyn Tomita’s look.

Photos by GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo

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