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Haku Lei Expert Meleana Estes Shows How to Get Festive with Lush Tropical Blooms

Get ready to swoon.


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Meleana Estes

PHOTOS: TOMMY SHIH

 

Forget the garden variety holly. In the Islands, celebrating the season means decking the halls with lush tropical blooms. Luckily, we’ve got flower stylist and lei maker Meleana Estes on hand to show us three ways to get festive using fresh picks.

 

Estes’ love of all things floral stems from her tūtū, a skilled lei maker and instructor who over the years taught her granddaughter beautiful, traditional techniques. A fashion designer by trade—she made the knockout jumper she wore for this shoot—Estes found herself fielding floral requests from friends in the industry. Her lei have brightened the lookbooks of Samudra, Mikoh and LSpace. Eventually she began leading workshops herself, which, to her surprise, have bloomed into a full-time business. “It’s so fun,” she says. “You’re using your natural surroundings and it’s an instantaneous way to be creative.”

 

Wrap Star

Meleana Estes


“My tūtū would always give me lei in a pu‘olo,” says Estes. Today she also uses the ti leaf bundle as gift wrap, adorning it here with a trimmed rhapis palm leaf and anthuriums, secured with rustic raffia. She suggests making a ribbon out of ti leaf or topping a present with a simple plumeria. “It isn’t wasteful and it’s an easy way to give something a touch of natural beauty.”

 

Round About

Meleana Estes


Instead of a traditional holiday wreath opt for one with a tropical twist. “It’s Hawai‘i modern,” Estes says of this stunner’s striking, minimal aesthetic. In a nod to the season she wrapped the base with red ti leaves, then layered on graphic areca fronds and clean-lined monstera and banana leaves. 

 

A Fine Line

Meleana Estes


According to Estes, creating a gorgeous, Island-inspired garland or table runner is all about texture. “For this I wanted a whimsical feel with airy elements,” she says. Interwoven with plush leaves are sprays of pincushion protea, lustrous anthuriums, pearl-shaped coconut tree pods, eucalyptus sprigs and fuzzy, silver-hued dusty miller leaves. 

 

Meleana Estes

 

For more info on Estes’ flower styling, lei workshops and fashions visit meleana.com.

 

READ MORE STORIES BY BRIE THALMANN

 

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