story by Liza Simon
photo by Ann Cecil
With her big hazel eyes, leggy figure and throw-another-shrimp-on-the-barbie accent, Deb Mascia should have been a shoo-in for the part of a fresh-from-the-Outback lass in an episode of Lost.
“But the casting agent said I wasn’t Australian enough,” laughs the recent transplant from Down Under, who now lives in Kane‘ohe. “Next time I’ll remember to bring my koala bear!”
No worries—a subsequent brush with celebrity brought a happy ending anyway. Deb wore one of her home-sewn skirts to a Honolulu press party for another Hollywood production, and stylists and starlets went crazy for the garment, including, says Deb, “the bombshell Eva Mendez, who interrupted her own interview to shout out, ‘Fabulous skirt!’”
The skirt had been assembled from pieces of what Deb calls “a recently loved mu‘umu‘u.” Since arriving in Hawai‘i, she’d been obsessed with hunting down and ripping up vintage mu‘umu‘us and then using the fabric, the piping, the ruffles, the lace and even the buttons to create one-of-a-kind skirts. With some branding brainstorms from husband Eric, a former advertising exec, Deb created the company Mu‘umu‘u Heaven. Compliments continued to flood in whenever she wore her re-engineered creations, Deb’s confidence in the merchandise grew and today the company is solidly successful: Word on the coconut wireless has brought Internet commerce and boutique orders from places as far flung as South Dakota and New Jersey. Now both the company and family are growing: Baby Zachariah recently arrived on the scene, inspiring a new line of tiny T-shirts appliquéd with mu‘umu‘u fabric swatches.
“People just love something with personality!” Deb exclaims, when asked about the merchandise’s popularity. One can’t help but feel that Lost’s loss is fashion’s gain.