On the mainland, Hawaiian fashion has long been misunderstood. When it’s not being represented by the body-erasing muumuu, it’s thought of as kitschy shirts bursting with pineapples or palm trees, billowing like the oversize battle flag of the dorky middle-aged man. But those days are coming to an end. Thanks to a new generation of fashion-forward designers in Oahu, Hawaiian fashion is having its moment in the sun. On your next trip to Hawaii’s most populous island, be sure to check out these four homegrown talents who are redefining what it means to dress with the aloha spirit.
Drawing inspiration from his background as a hula practitioner, designer Carrington Manaola Yap interprets Hawaiian spirituality and botanicals into hypnotic patterns printed on clothes, housewares, and accessories. Look out for cool joggers, easygoing kealani dresses, and slim hilo ("to twist" in Hawaiian) shirts, made with crinkle-friendly lightweight cotton.
1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, manaolahawaii.com
Aloha Beach Club
As a former professional surfer, Kahana Kalama imbues his line of men’s apparel and home goods with infectious stoke. His versions of board shorts are slimmer and shorter with nautical stripes, and the unstructured linen and cotton blazers manage to be dapper and relaxed at the same time. And if you can’t make it to Hawaii, Kalama runs another store in San Diego (3039 University Ave.).
131 Hekili St. #108, Kailua, alohabeachclub.com
Stocking casual and feminine pieces, this boutique showcases owners and designers Rona Bennett and Lan Chung’s own creations while also curating other made-in-Hawaii items. From flirty, off-the-shoulder tops to versatile dresses, Fighting Eel focuses on sexy but comfortable clothes that pair as well with high heels as they do with flip-flops.
1133 Bethel St., Honolulu, fightingeel.com
Sig on Smith
Designer Sig Zane has long been a household name in Hawaii for his brand of bold aloha shirts from the Big Island. Now his son Kūhaʻo is stocking Hawaiian shirts that are exclusive to a 500-square-foot Chinatown outpost in Honolulu, decked out with LED-lit floating shelves and a painted concrete floor. To try on the store’s vibrant men’s tops, created with Hawaii- or Japan-made fabrics, you’ll have to show up on Friday, the only day when the store is open.
1018 Smith St., Honolulu, sigzanedesigns.com