story by Jeela Ongley
photo by Sergio Goes
When is bad sushi good? Answer: When it isn't food but a groovy—and reasonably priced—boutique on the edge of Honolulu's Chinatown. From its River Street storefront, Bad Sushi! serves up a fun and funky shopping experience a la Haight Street or SoHo with its unique selection of wares and world culture vibe. Replete with Buddhas, Hindu gods, Rastafari colors and Asian designs, Bad Sushi!'s custom collection includes clothing, jewelry, art, novelties and other accoutrements of pop culture.
All those Buddha images aren't just pseudo-spiritual hip; Bad Sushi! has a social conscience to back them up. "We try to buy from groups that benefit women and girls in Asia—Bali, Thailand, North India, Tibet and Nepal," explains co-owner Bobbi Blackford. "We personally know the seamstresses and the people we work with; that's important to us." Their prevailing ethos, however, is to "funkify everything."
A flair for the theatrically sexy-yet-lethal is apparent in the "Asian Equasian" dresses designed by Blackford, a former movie stunt woman. In her hands, a cheongsam might be deconstructed and recombined with cutout panels, a miniskirt and platform boots for a femme fatale look that is as provocative as it is confident. "I'm inspired by martial arts, belly-dancing, capoeira, geisha, world cultures, extreme sports," she explains, adding: "I know how to design clothes you can move in."
In addition to Blackford's originals, Bad Sushi! offers the Kung Fu Fashion line of anime tanktops, dragon-print skirts and 'wearable weaponry"—lipstick knives, mace and throwing stars—de rigeur for your modern-day ninjette.
Blackford's partner Miki Mixtup, who moonlights as a DJ, laughs as she describes the reactions of people who stumble into Bad Sushi!, which opened in June 2006. "A lot of people come in and say, 'Finally someone is doing a store for us'—open-minded, creative, artistic people—'thank you!' But some people come in and look a little scared; they don't know quite what they've walked into."
Downtown Honolulu's monthly First Friday block party is the best time to walk in. Miki jams music until midnight for the club-bound clientele dressing to their badder selves under the black lights. It's the best bad sushi you'll ever have.