Reise Kochi’s Intrepid Adornments Make a Statement

Reise Kochi
Image by John Hook

Pairing face chains and leather harnesses with mu‘umu‘u and straw hats, the stylist and designer offers lessons on how to make the avant-garde work in Hawai‘i.

Text by Natalie Schack
Images by John Hook

Hair and Makeup by Risa Hoshino
Modeled by Lise Michelle

Don’t bother looking for Reise Kochi creations at the mall. His leather harnesses, bespoke floral adornments, and other custom accessories (like the hand-folded paper purses he made for Rumi Murakami’s paper-inspired fall/winter 2018 collection) are nowhere near retail-level production, which is sort of the point.

“If I were just making the same thing again and again and again, that would kill my creative side,” says Kochi, who instead customizes each piece to the specific project at hand, whether it’s a collaboration, editorial feature, commercial photoshoot, or runway show. “I make the patterns and do everything myself. That’s why it takes me a while on some projects. I’m literally working from scratch.”

While Kochi draws on his formal training in Honolulu Community College’s fashion program, as well as his self-taught skills in leather work, lately his inspiration has been coming from a more personal place: his heritage.

The idea for Kochi’s signature leather harnesses—unique in the local fashion scene and perhaps the most recognizable of his creations—came about after he discovered a leather satchel that had been handmade by his grandfather.

“We’re all so covered up in our face masks these days—this face piece made of safety pins and crown flowers was my response to the times we’re living in.” —Reise Kochi

I’m discovering a side of myself that I never really tuned into growing up.

Reise Kochi

Kochi’s more recent passion for utilizing tropical flowers and lei in his styling work has been an opportunity to dive into a part of his identity and culture that he hadn’t fully explored. When Kochi’s parents decided to sell the house he grew up in and move off island in early 2020, it awakened a sense of nostalgia and a desire for introspection that is increasingly apparent in his work.

“It’s funny, my life has been kind of bringing me back to my roots with my dad moving to the Big Island and really discovering and immersing himself in Hawaiian practice,” Kochi says. “And now, making my own lei for shoots and parties, I’m discovering a side of myself that I never really tuned into growing up.”

Reise Kochi

Reise Kochi’s edgy leather harnesses and chain work can be intimidating, especially in Honolulu’s relaxed fashion climate. Here are his tips for making these bold, stand-out pieces work for you.

Opposites attract.
“Try pairing them with pieces that might be considered modest, like a mu‘umu‘u, a blouse, or an aloha shirt. I’m always playing with opposites.”

Buy local.
“This white muslin caftan is by long-time local designer Tsia Carson of Language of the Birds, who now lives in Hudson, New York. The head piece was a way to contrast the soft lines of the caftan with something rigid and hard.”

Confidence is your most essential accessory.
“These are statement pieces, so be ready for people to take notice. Remember: You are wearing the harness, don’t let the harness wear you.”