Style and Substance
The designers of Kealopiko teach Native Hawaiian values through their clothing line.
Did you know that Kapiolani Park used to have a racetrack? Or, that Native Hawaiians used the lightweight wood of the wiliwili tree to construct the ama of outrigger canoes? The three founders of the clothing line Kealopiko did, and they think you should, too.
Photo by Alex Viarnes
|Kealopiko founders (clockwise) Hina Kneubuhl, Jamie Makasobe and Ane Bakutis use their homes as design studios.|
Launched last December by Ane Bakutis, Hina Kneubuhl and Jamie Makasobe—each of Hawaiian ancestry—the label features playful, eye-catching designs of native plants, animals and cultural references with an artsy, non-generic twist.
“Plumerias and monsteras and things that aren’t native to Hawaii are being represented on T-shirts, which are basically for tourists—and that just wasn’t cutting it,” says Bakutis, who jokingly describes herself as the grandma of the trio at the ripe age of 31 (Kneubuhl is 29 and Makasobe is 25). “We wanted to create something that would inspire us and make us feel sexy, stylish and proud of who we are and where we come from.”
Although none of the women majored in fashion or design, their degrees in botany, Hawaiian studies and language, and public relations seem to be working as suitable substitutes. Each of Kealopiko’s items is accompanied by a yellow tag, which explains the manao, or meaning, behind each design. Makasobe says, “A big thing for us is education. Even if people know the background on some of our drawings, it’s important to bring these things back. This way, the knowledge can be passed on to others.”
Kealopiko takes this principle a step further by donating a portion of its sales to groups supporting native Hawaiian plants, animals, cultural education and practices, including the Kokua Hawaii Foundation and Paepae o Heeia, which cares for the ancient Hawaiian fishpond in Kaneohe.
Bernards of Hawaii
-Lori Anne Tomonari