Pa'u riders bring fashion to King Kamehameha parade

Published On: Aug 06 2014 01:47:30 AM HST   Updated On: Jun 13 2014 11:36:35 PM HST

It's an art to turn nine yards of cloth and six kukui nuts into fashion and that's what pa'u riders are doing as they prepare for the King Kamehameha Floral Parade Saturday.

There's a history behind the satin creations that pa'u riders wear.

Click here to watch Paula Akana's report.

Not long after horses were introduced to the islands in the early 1800s, the residents of Hawaii took easily to horseback riding. That included women.

"Women, when they wanted to go from one place to another, especially when they are dressed in the Holokus, they needed to protect their garments," said Kimo Alama Keaulana, Pa'u Draping Chairperson.

"So, some ingenious Hawaiian women thought of using 12 yards of material and stones and what we use today – kukui nuts – dried, unpolished kukui nuts to put together the pa'u hololio," he added.

Thus the pa'u rider was born; always a mainstay in island parades.

Keaulana is the official pa'u draper. He, along with his team, will be wrapping the riders on the day of the parade. It's an art he learned when he was just 12 years old.

"The method we use today we can trace back to the latter part of the 19th century. We're going to put together the pa'u hololio with just six kukui nuts," said Keaulana. "You don't want them polished because they need all ridges and the roughness to secure the twist and the turns in the fabric that will be tucked."

First step: tying the pa'u around the waist.

"Many of our pa'u riders will tell you a lot of times it's done so tightly," said Keaulana.

Next, the seat of the pa'u is created with fabric brought between the riders' legs. It is a precise art.
The edges and corners are all measured as they find the middle of the pa'u.

"So that when Kehaunani finally gets on the horse, her pa'u will be even on both sides of the horse," described Keaulana. "That's going to go under the fabric. It's going to go right up to the rider and this first nut is going to create the seat for Kehaunani. How we secure the nut in place? The fabric is twisted with the nut in place and it is tucked into the waist."

Again and again the fabric is measured and then twisted and secured by the kukui nut until all six nuts are used and the pa'u hololio is pau.

"This garment is both functional and beautiful," said Keaulana.

Now Kehaunani's kipolo, or top, is adjusted with its ribbons doing double duty.

"In the old days the Hawaiian women loved to ride at a full gallop and have the pa'u streaming behind them. That's why she wears ribbons to secure her lei because when she gallops, the wind catches those ribbons. It's an awfully pretty site," said Keaulana.
For Keaulana and his team, pa'u draping is an exciting way to carry on a unique Hawaii tradition.

"It's really, really exciting to know that this was something that was done for generations before us. Hopefully it's going to go on for generations after us too," said Keaulana.

KITV's Paula Akana will be one of your hosts at the 98th annual parade Saturday. It airs live on OC-16 at 9 a.m. with a hana hou on KITV at 4 p.m.


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