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Designing the hot-time wear

SUMMER STORY --

August 27, 2001

Young Chang

From her Lido Isle home, in a small studio office that could double as

a breakfast room for the kitchen, Heidi Dobrott thinks about pineapples.

The concept of Paris on an island.

Fuzzy kiwis.

Martini glasses bubbling.

The textile designer for Kahala and other resort-wear brands has

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splashed these summer symbols -- not to mention surfboards, surfers and

palm trees -- across Hawaiian-print shirts worn by vacationers wanting

the getaway look.

The designs originate in Dobrott's home where green-shuttered windows

let the sun in and where palm trees grow year-round. Sometimes, they end

up as far away as Puerto Vallarta and Singapore.

"You see a lot of it in the airport," Dobrott, 43, said of her shirts.

"And it feels really good. You wanna go up to them and thank them for

buying."

Last weekend, she went to an Eric Clapton concert where about half the

male visitors wore aloha shirts. She spotted her designs in the crowd.

During her international travels for work -- she goes to Bali for

tropical inspiration and Jakarta for fabrics -- Dobrott sees travelers

cluttering airport terminals with her prints.

And walk into almost any gift shop in resort states, including

California, Hawaii and Florida, and Kahala racks will boast her designs.

"It's fun, it's kitschy, it's campy," Dobrott said of her fashions.

"It's fun clothes to wear. And it's unique to our area here. You go to

Kansas and you don't see people wearing this."

The Newport Beach native, who has also designed for brands like

Sportif and Pineapple Connection, grew up in the water scene. She spent

much of her childhood on the beach. She remembers biking over to 44th

Street where a friend lived -- the house had a front yard that was the

ocean -- and hanging out everyday.

Today, the 43-year-old designer is learning to surf. Her job has taken

her to Waikiki and the other Hawaiian islands so many times that she

knows the exact order of hotels along a well-known Waikikian strip. She

is familiar with the tropical ambience of the Caribbean and closer

coastal states.

Her knowledge of all things having to do with the beach shows up in

her designs, which are done in watercolor, gauche and by computer.

The result?

A promotion of the resort lifestyle, Dobrott admits.

Sporting a golden tan and cropped pants of her own design, she sipped

from a blue mug of tea at home this week as the sun hit her petite but

browned frame and said she can't help but sell this life.

"I mean, who wouldn't want to live here?" Dobrott asked.

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