When Hawaii was a kingdom and Queens and Princesses rode horseback to balls, they’d wrap themselves up in gorgeous, long, and colorful skirts called Pa’u (pronounced pah-oo). Woven through their hair would be yards of vibrant and fragrant flowers. Their horses were also adorned in native flora. They were proud to be of a Kingdom so historically rich with tradition and lore. Over time as Hawaii underwent many political changes, this art slowly declined, but was revitalized in the 20th century through the establishment of formal riding organizations, unique to Hawaii, called Pau Riders. Our photoshoot today pays homage to this rich, noble history that is celebrated every year via parades and festivals worldwide. Our featured model, Faith Rogers, is of Native Hawaiian descent and travels extensively throughout Asia and Los Angeles. She’s wearing purple which is the traditional color of the island of Kauai.
We worked with Leiala Cook of the Hawaii Pa’u riders to recreate this significant moment in history. The Hawaii Pa’u Riders Foundation was founded by Cook’s parents in 1981. The art of Pau (skirt) and Lei (flower garland) making is passed down from generation to generation usually mother to daughter.
Traditionally the women would traverse the mountains and shorelines and gather only what they needed. Then they would dress up in a gown or holoku, get on the horse, wrap the pa’u around the dress and they were off to the gala. Slowly, automobiles became the norm and the art of the pa’u rider became a form of pageantry and enjoyed by the public via processions like the King Kamehameha Day Parade.
We are dedicated to reviving these types of historical equestrian activities to tell the story of this rich and noble sport.