Lifestyle, environment and fashion come together in Kailua creating an exciting trend of boutiques that provide unique experiences beyond typical shopping.
Living in Hawaii and particularly in Kailua offers a relaxed, but modern lifestyle where the environment clearly determines much of what we wear. Thanks to the ingenuity, creativity and collaboration of several local fashion partners, finding the right wardrobe without leaving Kailua, is now a breeze. Some new to the trade and some tried and true, these entrepreneurs have unique ideas filled with bold designs and aesthetics, and are hoping to make the world a better and more beautiful place.
Starting off the beaten path, on Uluniu Street, at one of our favorite pockets of fashion in paradise, is Aloha Superette. Aloha Superette is the concept store and vision of owner, designer, photographer and local resident Jennifer Binney, who just oozes style.
Clever, creative and constantly changing, Aloha Superette is a retail space by day and an art venue at night. The concept is ‘unexpected shopping’ where you never know what you might find when you pop in – be it art, fashion, photography, and/or home design. Additionally, this collaborative space features artists, authors and musicians in a variety of evening events like book signings, art openings, or live music.
What you can expect to find at Aloha Superette and must have is one of Jennifer’s own designs under the Samudra label. Samudra, which is the Sanskrit term for gathering waters, is apropos for her colorful graphic collection too. Items such as pouches, totes, and cover-ups, as well as home accessories will instantly transport you to a life of wanderlust and oceanside visions.
A different set of collaborators and style-makers, Ali McMahon and Parker Moosman are the husband and wife team and owners of Olive & Oliver. Olive Boutique and Oliver Men’s Shop are located on Kihapai Street with a deliciously chill coffee shop, Chad Lou’s, sandwiched between the two. Olive Boutique, run by local Kailua girl Ali, specializes in women’s clothing and accessories; while her imported, but very cool husband, Parker, runs the male counterpart, Oliver Men’s Shop. These two certainly know how to collaborate, yet keep it separate for the best of both beach worlds.
Although the two shops complement each other, they have very different vibes. Olive, under Ali’s watchful eye, is a very modern, coastal-chic haven for a quality, handpicked collection of comfortable, and yet, on-trend finds. There’s no need to take a trip to Honolulu for your favorites. Look for upscale but affordable pieces from name brands, Free People, Scotch & Soda, Spell/Byron Bay, Cleobella, Sol Angeles, Clayton, Sundry, et al. Choose from cute tops, relaxed beach pants, on-trend jeans; and we suggest a special nod to their year-round assortment of casual dresses as well as holiday attire. Handmade jewelry from local designers is also a top find at Olive.
On the other hand, Oliver Men’s Shop is a treasure trove. Part curiosity vintage, part hangout and part clothing store, this retro-styled high-end surf shop is the place to be. If you look closely (or feel free to ask), there’s a framed picture of the great Duke Kahanamoku and owner, Alie’s grandfather, John McMahon. Even Alie’s grandfather’s swimsuit from the 1930s is on display. What’s current then? — The fashion gear and mix of T-shirts, sweaters, shorts, shirts plus beach and about-town accessories of hats, shoes and sunglasses. Try on styles such as, but not limited to, Banks, Journal, Saturdays Surf NYC, Scotch & Soda, Fred Segal, Napoli, and Birdwell.
Men seem to be of the moment in Kailua and those in the know will head over to Aloha Beach Club on Hekili Street, where they revel in the clean designs and aesthetics of this mixed-use retail space. Another concept store, Aloha Beach Club is part lifestyle-menswear shop and part local-hangout (The Local is inside the store – natural shave ice, craft sodas and café.) Perfect for your shopping pals to enjoy some treats while you select and model your new garb.
The menswear is an exclusive collection designed by a collaborative effort of artists, friends and entrepreneurs from Hawaii and California, who appreciate the finer things in life, including good design, clothes, art, and, of course, the beach.
Founded by local Kailua boy Kahana Kalama and his friend, Billy Wickens, the two have created a very, clean-lined, beach-inspired look that works as well on surf or turf. The story goes that Kahana and his brother Kamohai tried to borrow dad’s Aloha shirts (must-have business wear in Hawaii) and were swimming in the boxy big shirts. Today, crisply tailored, smart, yet comfortable aloha shirts line the shelves of the minimalist space at Aloha Beach Club. Current trends of board shorts, hats and home goods round out the look. A big plus is most of the apparel in the store is made in Hawaii.
Teams of twos seem to be the driving force in many of Kailua’s go-to boutiques and Fighting Eel is no exception. Owners and fashion designers Rona Bennett and Lan Chun began showcasing their designs under the label, Fighting Eel, in 2003 and have since opened premier made-in-Hawaii boutiques including one location in Kailua.
The award-winning dynamic designers produce original pieces from scratch for the store that are both sophisticated, yet relaxed, and perfect for paradise living. The core of their collection is uncomplicated feminine designs that can take you from the beach to brunch, including dresses, tops, shorts, pants, kaftans, jumpsuits and rompers.
The two have recently launched a second label, Ava Sky, inspired by Lan’s daughter Ava. Ava Sky collection also features a ‘mini-collection’ in children’s sizes, 2- 10. The girls’ styles are highly sought after, particularly for special occasions. Matching looks for mom and daughter will make any picture perfect. Designer jeans such as Mother denim, swimsuits, bralettes, beach accessories and even locally-designed jewelry add to the Fighting Eel label and shopping experience at the boutique.
To our benefit, these aesthetics, concepts and partnerships have made it that much easier for us to look smart and current while living in Kailua and Hawaii. These aren’t the only fashion know-how partnerships. Look for future updates on Kailua’s current fashion scene to be in the know of what to wear and who is collaborating with whom.