18 Reasons We Love Hawai‘i Fashion
From chic beachware and bold, nature-inspired prints to cool collabs and fresh spins on sartorial traditions, here are 18 reason we’re crazy about Hawai‘i fashion.
Combine the hustle and bustle of a major city with year-round sunshine, picturesque beaches and lush, natural surroundings, mix in a rich cultural history and a thriving tourism industry, and you’ve set the stage for Hawai‘i’s unique fashion scene. And, fittingly, the designs that it inspires are just as one of a kind. Here, we delve into some of our favorite Island style signatures, from our penchant for aloha prints to great neighborhood boutiques to our knack for pairing rubber slippers with any and every type of outfit. Of course, this doesn’t cover every last attribute—there’s only so much you can jam into one story. But, it’s our way of celebrating some of the many things we love about Hawai‘i fashion.
No.1: Inspiration From Mauka to Makai
Mauka: Top and pencil skirt, custom designs by Allison Izu Song. Meredith Hanh Tatum ring, $97, spike ring, $74, Riches Kāhala, Kāhala Mall, 737-3303. Alexis Bittar Lucite drop earrings, $125, Miss Havisham mother of pearl and crystal cuffs, $175 each, pyramid-capped Lucite cuffs, $145 each, Neiman Marcus, Ala Moana Center, 951-8887.
Makai: Crop tank and pleated skirt, custom designs by Allison Izu Song. Omnia Alinea sterling silver cuff, $240, Fighting Eel, Kāhala Mall, 738-4912. Misa Jewelry ring, $170, Riches Kāhala, see left. Lana Mini Prix opal and 14K gold earrings, $1,200, Eddie Borgo Single Prickle sterling silver and crystal ring, $225, Neiman Marcus.
Art Direction: Kelsey Ige and Kristin Lipman / Wardrobe Styling: Stacey Makiya and Brie Thalmann / Photography: Harold Julian / Models: Krista Alvarez, Kathy Muller Talent and Modeling Agency, Ocean Hay, Wilhelmina Hawai‘i / Hair and Makeup: Kecia Littman
No. 2: Life’s a Beach
A hang 10 is always just a few minutes away, which is why nothing says Island style like a sweet set of sea-inspired duds and doodads. These swell local designs for your bod, board and beyond are ready to drop into your ensemble any day, whether you’re surfin’ the waves or turfin’ the streets.
1. Martin & MacArthur koa sunglasses, $295, Moana Surfrider, 2365 Kalākaua Ave., 380-5747.
2. Island Fin Design Islander Fin, $84, 67-200 Kealohanui St., 637-5347.
3. Xcel Hilo Bikini-Cut Wetsuit, $69.95, xcelwetsuits.com.
4. Aulta Leeway Nylon watch, $105, aultasurf.com.
5. Luxe by Jana Lam tote, $198, janalam.com.
6. Issa de’ Mar Sola mesh top, $88, Sunset bottom, $75, Guava Shop, 66 Kamehameha Highway, 637-9670.
7. Keani Jewelry Found You Manta Ray rose-gold-plated cuff, $120, keanijewelry.com.
8. Tiare Hawai‘i Banzai Short mini dress, $98, shoptiarehawaii.com.
9. Zak Noyle signature Da Fins, $68.95, Downing Hawai‘i, 3021 Wai‘alae Ave., 737-9696.
No. 3: Shopping Holoholo
Exploring O‘ahu’s chic neighborhood boutiques is a snap. Fashionistas can hit up everything from cute country stores to luxe shops in one around-the-island day of tropical shopping bliss.
Photos: Odeelo Dayondon
Kailua’s burgeoning shopping scene blends small-town charm with cool-kid pep. Both are especially apparent at the effortlessly hip Aloha Beach Club, with its racks of slim-cut buttondowns, and at new, artisan-focused Aloha Superette. Curated by Samudra designer Jennifer Binney, the earthy space is filled with handmade goods crafted around the world.
On the south side, sunny Monsarrat Ave. is enjoying its own influx of fresh shops. Opened this summer, aptly named Diamond Head Beach House is overflowing with sassy shorts, chic sun hats and tropical totes.
Things are always hopping in resort-central Waikīkī, where local shops have carved out a niche for Hawai‘i-designed goods among the international stores. At newly opened Letarte, the Maui-based brand sells resortwear and swimsuits in a wide palette of florals and vibrant solids.
Up-and-coming Kaka‘ako is abuzz with development, making it a hot spot for shops such as modern tropical florist Paiko, hip boutique We Are Iconic and culture-rich Native Books Nā Mea Hawai‘i, which specializes in Pacific-themed goods.
World-renowned surf haven Hale‘iwa recently received a facelift courtesy of its latest addition, the Hale‘iwa Store Lots retail center, and a flurry of new openings, including surfer-chic stores Guava Shop, Number 808 and Mahiku, which carry boho fashions and edgy waterwear.
No. 4: We Play Well With Others
Hawai‘i designers shine when it comes to sharing the spotlight, frequently teaming on fresh collabs and exclusives.
Photo: Tommy Shih
1. Designer Roberta Oaks and menswear boutique owner Parker Moosman joined forces to create the breezy Oliver Men’s Shop x Roberta Oaks Workshirt. To match Oliver’s surf-shack vibe, Oaks opted for a classic, preppy pinstripe chambray that felt fresh and nicely broken in all at once. $110, Oliver Men’s Shop, 49 Kīhāpai St., 261-6587.
2. Maui-based Box Eleven transforms vintage fabrics into playful, handmade patchwork bags. For her Owens & Co. x Box Eleven bag, designer Katie Browne teamed up with shop owner Missy Owens, collaborating on everything from the fabrics (bark cloth from the ’40s and ’50s, and poppy ’70s swatches) to the silhouette, a nod to Owens’ personal love of cross-body bags. $82, Owens & Co., 1152 Nu‘uanu Ave., 531-4300.
3. Partnering on the Meleana x Rebecca Beach Canoe Side-Tie Short was easy for the swimwear shop’s creative director Lauren Caldiero and designer Meleana Estes. “We share the same nostalgia for Waikīkī,” says Estes, who drew inspiration from the area’s vibe in the ’70s. “Beach boys and long days under the coconut tree,” says Estes. $50, Diamond Head Beach House, 3218 B Monsarrat Ave., 737-8667.
No. 5: Connections To Nature
From the elegance of the koa leaf to the flow of the ‘ele‘ele, local designers draw inspiration from Hawai‘i’s diverse and uniquely beautiful surroundings.
Photo: David Croxford, Illustration: Kelsey Ige
1. Designers Ane Bakutis, Jamie Makasobe and Hina Kneubuhl of Kealopiko capture the flowing movement of the limu ‘ele‘ele in the water, a seaweed that grows only where fresh and sea water mingle. The print speaks to the importance of maintaining a good, clean water habitat in our Islands.
‘Ele‘ele keiki Tee, $28, kealopiko.com
2. Danene Lunn, owner of Manuheali‘i, represents the layering of generations with the ‘awapuhi, a native Hawaiian ginger plant with vibrant red blossoms. “It is also the first plant we planted for our youngest son when we moved to Kailua and became a family of five,” says Lunn.
Naomi tank, $44, manuhealii.com
3. Hilo-based Sig Zane hopes his designs provide deeper insight into Hawaiian culture and values. Here, the kalaukoa print celebrates the signature, crescent-shaped leaves of the koa tree, the largest native tree in Hawai‘i.
Button-down shirt, $200, sigzane.com
4. Tutuvi Sitoa designer Colleen Kimura finds never-ending inspiration from the plants, sea life and natural material from the Pacific Islands. Note how the kukui leaves are beautifully knotted into a lei, traditionally made by joining leaf stems together.
Kukui Print T-Shirt, $46, available Nov. 23 through Dec. 31. at Shop Pacifica, bernice pauahi bishop museum, 1525 bernice st., 848-4158.
No. 6: Luxury, Steps From the Sand
No need to stray from the shore when in search of upscale shopping. Luxe retail destinations are as close to the crests as it gets.
Photo: Courtesy of Valentino
Just this year alone has brought a slew of new high-end retailers to the Islands. At the practically beachside Royal Hawaiian Center sit ritzy brands that include Fendi, Tourneau and, as of July, the Islands’ first Valentino (pictured) store, with two elegant floors of sleek stone filled with the brand’s signature Rockstud shoes and leather goods.
Across the bridge, the expansion of the already-massive Ala Moana Center includes a 165,000-square-foot Bloomingdale’s that will stock a mile-long list of dashing, luxurious labels. Offerings include the first-ever Vince handbag shop, uber-popular Alexander Wang tees and hard-to-get Burberry Beauty.
No. 7: Our International Influence
Designers from around the globe are all about haute tropics, drawing inspiration from equatorial aesthetics with arrangements of steamy florals and pops of palms turning up the heat on runways.
Left to right: Mara Hoffman, Thakoon, Nicole Miller, Osklen, Victoria Beckham, Balmain and Karen Walker
Photos: Courtesy of the Respective Brands
No. 8: Our Island Hot Pot
Hawai‘i’s unique mix of cultures results in some of the most photogenic, exotically beautiful people in the world, as evidenced by this roundup of ridiculously good-looking Island models.
Agency: Premier Models and Talent
Agency: Premier Models and Talent
Agency: Kathy Muller Talent and Modeling Agency
Agency: Niche Models and Talent
Agency: Kathy Muller Talent and Modeling Agency
Agency: Larson Talent Hawai‘i
Agency: Premier Models and Talent
Agency: Wilhelmina Hawai‘i
PHOTOS: SIMONE KOMINE; HAIR AND MAKEUP; JONATHAN FREITAS
No. 9: We Take It Easy
Pair the fickle tradewinds with our active lifestyles and you arrive at the average Islander’s wardrobe dilemma—staying comfy and cool while looking polished and put together. Fortunately, our state boasts talented knitwear designers who transform stretch jersey, modal, rayon and more into deliciously soft, easy-to-wear styles, showcased here by dancer-model (and knitwear fan) Allison Chu.
Left to right: A-Line Swing rayon-spandex top, $78, Macy’s, Ala Moana Center, 941-2345. Lily Lotus Jegging Lycra-organic cotton pant, $108, Lily Lotus, 3632 Wai‘alae Ave., 277-1724. Florencia Aria rayon-spandex maxi dress, $123, florenciaarias.com. Lily Lotus Lily bamboo-spandex wrap, $88, Lily Lotus, see above. Cassandra Rull Lycra-spandex Thin Stripe Active Top, $60, shopcassandrarull.com. Allison Izu Cooke Street nylon-rayon-spandex straight-leg pant, $88, allisonizu.com.
photos: rae huo; model: allison chu, wilhelmina hawai‘i; hair and makeup: kecia littman
No. 10: Our Shirts Speak Volumes
From fearlessly loud patterns to quietly confident motifs, Hawai‘i’s aloha shirts come with personalities as unique as their owners. Take a look at the latest from local designers and see which fits you best. Remember, you wear the shirt, not the other way around.
PHOTO: DAVID CROXFORD
1. Jams World channels the 1960s with abstract prints that are groovy to look at and even groovier to wear. Keep your shirt on with energetic and dynamic colors in dizzying, tizzying blossom print.
Flower Field Retro shirt, $100, Jams World, Ward Village Shops, 593-2655.
2. Inspired by her farmhouse childhood, Roberta Oaks designs sharp-fitting shirts with fun prints and mix-and-match color combos. Dare to don the Macaw, which features a motif of large white palms over a rainbow of hues that’ll make you the life of the party.
Macaw shirt, $120, Roberta Oaks, 19 N. Pauahi St., 526-1111.
3. ‘Iolani Sportswear dates back to the 1950s, a family business owned and operated by the Kawakami family. An updated collection of Island-inspired fashion includes vibrant eggplant shades and tropical leaves to keep you cool and confident in the office, and, come 5 p.m., ready to pau hana.
Panilau shirt, $79, ‘IOLANI at Kona, 1234 Kona St., 593-4520.
4. Reyn Spooner played a crucial role in revitalizing the classic aloha shirt in the workplace during the ’60s. This piece is a throwback, with a cheery assortment of hand-painted designs based on ‘ukulele and guitars overlapping song sheets.
Don’s Collection shirt, $98-$102, Reyn Spooner, Kāhala Mall, 737-8313.
5. Tori Richard specializes in tropical resort wear with sophisticated prints on a relaxed but well-fitted silhouette. Playful koi frolic across a navy background, adding colorful contrast in an Asian-inspired look.
All Koi shirt, $92, Tori Richard, Ala Moana Center, 949-5858.
6. Kāhala shirts hail back to the old Waikīkī beach-boy lifestyle. In support of The Polynesian Voyaging Society, the brand teamed up with Outrigger to create this World Voyage shirt which depicts nautical designs inspired by the Hōkūle‘a.
World Voyage shirt, $84, Kāhala Sportswear, Ala Moana Center, 941-2444.
7. Rix Island Wear shirts are made in Hawai‘i, with allover tribal and island designs on soft cotton. This lively print gets you in the mood for a lū‘au, complete with fish, banana leaves and ‘ukulele—even a kālua pig.
lū‘au shirt, $59.50–$69.50, Rix Island Wear, Ward Village Shops, 589-0749.
No. 11: Right Clicks
From hula and home décor to bikinis and Bali escapes, Hawai‘i fashion bloggers compile daily wish-you-were-them images featuring local, national and international fashion, food and faraway adventures.
Founders of Pīkake Pursuit: Jade Snow (Right) and Kim Shibata.
Photo: Courtesy of Pīkake Pursuit
Founders: Jade Snow and Kim Shibata
Click here for: Pics of hidden Hawai‘i gems including food, fashion, home décor and hula.
Three things you love about Hawai‘i fashion?
JS: Fearless color, floral adornments and effortless fabric.
Favorite place to shoot in Honolulu?
KS: My hometown of Kaimukī. It’s so exciting to see this creative community blooming.
Founder of Pineapple Ice: Lindsey Higa
Photo: Courtesy of Pineapple Ice
Founder: Lindsey Higa
Click here for: Street-style looks, edgy bikini shoots, food and fashion collabs with local artists and D.I.Y. sessions.
Pineapple Ice was named after my favorite slush from Hank’s Haute Dogs. I loved the name and wanted my blog to feel refreshing, local and fun.
Favorite F/W15 trend?
The skinny scarf. It translates so well for our climate and is the perfect light layer.
Founders of Bikini Bird: Tiana Becker Gamble (Left) and Ally Lopez (Right)
Photos: Courtesy of Bikini Bird
Founders: Tiana Becker Gamble and Ally Lopez
Click here for: Dreamy (and shoppable) beachwear photo shoots featuring local and national designers, lookbook sneak peeks and snaps of tropical locales.
Latest local fashion must-have?
TBG: The A.Wattz Dezigns ear creeper.
Favorite F/W15 trend?
TBG: Athletic details—thick elastic banding and colorblocking.
Favorite new local designer?
TBG: Alola Maui. I love its leather backpacks.
No. 12: The Ocean Is Our Boardroom
Local boys love to sport surf shorts in and out of the water. Lucky for them, hometown designers keep pumping out wave after wave of current styles. Slimmer cuts, fast-drying fabrics and four-way stretch materials allow ocean lovers to go from surf to turf in comfort and style. And, you can bet your bottoms you’ll also find a handful of short takes in the sea inspired by the retro days of the legendary Duke.
Photos: boardroom: rae huo; slipper style: david croxford, courtesy of reef, olu kai
1. WATERSHOT SPLASH WATERPROOF CAMERA HOUSING FOR IPHONE, $129.99, 2. VESTAL BRIG WATCH, $140, T & C SURF DESIGNS, KĀHALA MALL, 733-5699.
2. Paradise Cup boardshorts, $75, Reyn Spooner, Kāhala Mall, 737- 8313.
3. DAKINE KAINUI BOARD LEASH, $22, HAWAIIAN ISLAND CREATIONS, ALA MOANA CENTER, 973-6780.
4. DIAGONAL STRIPE BOARDSHORTS, $40, HAWAIIAN ISLAND CREATIONS, ALA MOANA CENTER, 973-6780.
5. Vestal brig watch, $140, HAWAIIAN ISLAND CREATIONS, ALA MOANA CENTER, 973-6780.
6. MR. ZOGS SEX WAX, $1.43, ALA MOANA CENTER, 973-6780.
7. T & C Surf Designs Gilligan boardshorts, $39.50. T & C Surf Designs, Kāhala Mall, 733-5699.
8. ZORI SLIPPERS, $14.50, HAWAIIAN ISLAND CREATIONS
9. SPY HAPPY LENS SUNGLASSES, $120, T & C SURF DESIGNS.
10. ISLAND FIN DESIGN SURFBOARD FIN, $69, DIAMOND HEAD BEACH HOUSE, 3128 B MONSARRAT AVE., 737-8667.
11. DOC MARTIN’S OF MAUI NEXGEN SUNSCREEN, $20, HAWAIIAN ISLAND CREATIONS.
12. DUKE’S PAREO VOLLEY STYLE SWIM SHORTS, $68, KĀHALA, ALA MOANA CENTER, 941- 2444.
13. Demzien board leash, $26, HAWAIIAN ISLAND CREATIONS, ALA MOANA CENTER, 973-6780.
14. NoRep x Fitted Alaka‘i collaboration boardshorts, $69.99, Fitted Hawai‘i, 1438 Kona St., 942-3100.
No. 13: We Love to Play Matchy Matchy
When it comes to family portraits, locals love to don matching aloha wear. And now, more than ever, Island designers are offering parents and their next-of twins stylish options made for the modern ohana. The latest super-fun sets include everything from graphic prints to bright solids, and, dare we say, edgy animal prints for the wild child in all of us.
photo: karen d.b. photogrpahy; hair and makeup jasmine mullins
On mom Chelsea: Jimi zebra dress, $136, The Hatter Company straw fedora, $44, Fighting Eel, 1133 Bethel St., 738-9300. Amazonite, mother of pearl and coral necklace, $62, Ginger 13, 22 Pauahi St., 531-5311.
Chelsea’s perfect day: ”It would be going with Kaila to the beach, then to eat at California Pizza Kitchen, stopping to pick some flowers, followed by playing beauty salon.”
On daughter Kaila: Jaya zebra jumper, $48, Banana Leaf tank, $24, Fighting Eel, see above. Animal pendant necklaces, $18.50 each, triple glitter star necklace, $22.50, cat-ear headband, $22.50, J. Crew, Ala Moana Center, 949-5252.
Kaila’s bright future: “I want to be a singer, an artist and a fashion designer.”
No. 14: Slipper Style
Not flip-flops, not thongs, but rubber slippers, or, rather “rubbah slippahs” have become the unofficial footwear of Hawai‘i, slap-slapping their way into nearly every type of island occasion. Track how far our beloved slippah has come, from plantation day staple to modern fashion accessory.
The iconic V-strap arrives with the wooden geta during the 1880s, as Japanese plantation laborers come to Hawai‘i wearing footwear with elevated wood bases, which keep kimonos clean. The dual leather straps keep feet cool in hot weather.
The post-World War II-era marks the mass production of affordable, rubber sandals, winning people over with easy, airy comfort.
Trendy patterns and eye-catching designs like ride the phenomenal wave of surf culture that boomed in the 1980s from California.
4. Olu Kai
Design-focused brands like Olu Kai take a stand in the 2000s with environmentally conscious, anatomically fit footwear finished with hand-crafted designs.
5. HAYN + Sig Zane
Local boutiques in Hawai‘i become mindful of designing slippers as a tribute to their home—HAYN’s slipper strap features a pattern of volcanoes forming land and eventually becoming mountains, symbolizing the growth of Hawai‘i.
Slippers go high-end courtesy of luxury fashion designers.
No. 15: It’s Always Tee Time
A good tee never goes out of style, especially if it’s locally designed. Made from buttery soft fabrics and adorned with odes to the Hawaiian culture and lifestyle, men (and women) love to wear these closet staples with jeans, under a blazer or with a pair of still-wet boardshorts. We suggest getting your hands on one fast, because these seasonal tee-sers won’t last long.
Left to right: Hang Loose Hawai‘i T-shirt, $55, salvagepublic.com. L’Homme T-shirt, $34, moon-collective.com. Aloha Beach Club crew tee, $40, Aloha Sunday Supply Co., 131 Hekili St. Ste. 108. SHOOTS Leahi T-shirt, $35, Diamond Head Beach House, 3128 B Monsarrat Ave., 737-8667. The Great Tee, $30, paieaprojects.com. Aloha Sunday Plantation raw indigo jeans, $231, Aloha Sunday Supply Co., see above.
photos: tee time, harold julian; model austin kino, premier models and talent
No. 16: Skilled Artisans
Photos: Odeelo Dayondon
Jewelry is an integral part of Island fashion, and never more so than when elevated by meticulous, painstaking hand craftsmanship. For an inside look at the art form, we asked Honolulu-based M33Ms designer Emiko Miyazawa to show us the process behind her line’s modern, architectural pieces— specifically, the production of her sleek Triple Rivet Ring.
Miyazawa sketches her design on paper or fabricates it organically through metalwork.
2. Creating and Refining the Wax Model
Triple Rivet Ring
After slicing off a chunk of hard wax from a block, Miyazawa scores it to precisely mark the size of the piece being created. Files, carving tools (dental tools that she modified by hand) and multiple grits of sand paper are employed to shape a wax model, create detail and smooth the surfaces. Once ready, the model is sent to a local metalworker to be cast in metal.
3. Mold Making, Casting and Polishing
Miyazawa cleans up the cast metal piece by hand, filing down imperfections and excess metal to create a master model. A rubber mold is made based on the metal master model and will be used to make all future copies of the piece.
Copies are cast in metal using the rubber mold. Each piece is filed, sanded, polished with a polishing wheel, and tumbled in a tumbling barrel with multiple types of ceramic media that harden and burnish the surface.
4. Setting the Diamonds
After hand-assembling the piece, Miyazawa drills a hole the exact size of the diamond to create a seat and uses a magnifying loop and a burnishing tool to fit and secure the diamond in the setting.
No. 17: Modern Twists On Tradition
Strong cultural ties are par for the course in the Islands, making Hawai‘i designers particularly adept at translating fashion elements from the past into fresh, contemporary designs.
Photo: David Croxford
For a prime example, look no further than Honolulu-based designer Anne Namba, a master at transforming traditional Asian design elements and vintage Japanese fabrics into sophisticated, modern apparel and accessories. These days the women’s section of her boutique is filled with chic, black-and-white kimono shibori dresses, floaty silk tops covered with an edgy, all-over dragon print and clean-lined, pagoda-style jackets paneled with supple leather and luxurious vintage obi fabric. And, talk about current, Namba’s latest accessory release is a leather and obi fabric belt outfitted with a pocket to hold a cell phone.
And, then, of course, there are Namba’s one-of-a-kind bustier tops. One of her latest, shown here, is crafted from a vintage silk Fukuro obi, which customarily is used for dressier events and has metallic motifs on black. Fully boned and piped, it features a lustrous, beautifully brocaded peacock design, an adjustable, lace-up back and buttons reminiscent of Victorian-era jet buttons.
“I especially relate to the Japanese kimono and obi as I love the motifs, colors and use of space in their designs,” explains Namba. “I am inspired to bring new life to vintage textiles and create garments that one can wear and enjoy, not just look at.”
Bustier, $485, Anne Namba Designs, 324 Kamani St., 589-1135.
No. 18: Crown Jewels
Add a touch of 17th-century history to your look with the traditional heirloom bracelet. Elegant and proud, it dates back to the days of Princess Lili‘uokalani, who received a solid gold bracelet as a gift from England’s Queen Victoria. The bracelet featured Lili‘uokalani’s name in Old-English lettering in deep, majestic black enamel, sparking interest in Hawai‘i’s ali‘i, or the royal courts. Since then, the heirloom bracelet has evolved to include Hawaiian designs such as the plumeria, maile and honu. Today, you can find delicate bands handcrafted by local boutiques, adorned with sea shells, gold charms and lettered stamps that offer a nod to traditional styles.
Left to right: Tidepool Love, Ki-Elee, Royal Hawaiian Jewelry, Maui Divers Jewelry, Nā Hōkū
Photo: David Croxford