Kailua Cool: Islandwear Favorite Manuhealiʻi Unveils Makeover
Local design house fashions a new look for its Windward store.
Photos: Aaron K. Yoshino
The Kailua headquarters of Manuheali‘i feels bigger, brighter and more inviting after a design makeover that was officially unveiled just in time for summer.
You still feel like you might be stopping by a friend’s house to check out what to wear to brunch, a wedding or May Day but the bright interior now includes a surfboard, soft pillows and framed prints among the dresses, tops, aloha shirts and other apparel.
This is the fourth storefront in Kailua for the local alohawear line, an Island favorite for folks looking for bright prints and styles that flatter the whole family. Co-founder and lead designer Danene Lunn says the renovation project represented a different kind of design challenge for the company, which has another store in the Punahou area.
Lunn says the team members knew they wanted to keep that friendly atmosphere for which they’ve been known since establishing the company in 1985. She and husband Pono started the business from their Kailua home, first selling clothing at craft fairs.
And Lunn says that’s part of why they wanted to keep the homey feeling. “We didn’t change a lot. We kept the same lights but we spray-painted them gold,” she adds.
The $125,000 renovation kept most of the existing footprint of the store. Lunn says they have a long lease and wanted to be thoughtful about a redesign that matches the company brand.
The makeover added about 600 square feet, with more space toward Kalapawai Café and Market, updated the entry, shifted the door and added all native plants in the landscaping and a patio area for a picnic table, she says. “It took us a year to get through the permits,” she explains.
“We improved the dressing rooms. We just wanted to have the comfortable feel. We lit it up and we kept the high ceiling,” Lunn says. There’s a tiny kitchen in the corner and they turned the upstairs into a lounge to meet with clients privately on a couch decked out in a perky Manuheali‘i print.
The kou tree near the old door had to be removed during construction so they dedicated a new print to that tree, Lunn says.
Keeping with the family feel, she plans a rotating series of photos of the older prints from more than three decades of clothing. The photos are already getting customers talking, she says. People talk about their memories of what they wore for that 90th birthday celebration, family reunion or baby lū‘au.
Even the grounds look more inviting, as the construction took out the low wall that used to ring the parking lot. When we asked for archival photos of the three previous Kailua stores, Lunn laughed, saying taking such photos would have been a great idea, but no one thought of it at the time. “In the beginning, you’re just kind of head down and designing,” she says.
Manuheali‘i, 5 Ho‘olai St., Kailua, (808) 261-9865, manuhealii.com.
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