What began for Kehaulani Neilson as upcycling her old hula costumes has turned into a gorgeous storefront at Ala Moana Center—and a covetable fall collection.
How do you create the patterns and prints for your unique designs? Many times the prints are inspired by people in my life. The Hopoelehuaopuna print is our signature print, and means ‘the shapely lehua blossom of Puna.’ It is my daughter’s middle name and is reminiscent of the lehua blossoms that are found in Puna, Hawai‘i Island, where I grew up.
What can fans expect for fall? We create effortless and stylish vacation- and staycation-ready styles and incorporate our Hawaiian motifs into the designs. We will be releasing our ‘Ohai Ali‘i print on a gorgeous teal, purple, and our signature black and gold.
You opened at Ala Moana Center. How does it feel?
[Last year], I had finally gotten up the nerve to make an appointment with the leasing agent because I just wanted to see what I needed to do for my five-year plan. For me, it was AMC or nothing. The agent told me, ‘I’ve been following you for quite some time now. I think you’d be a great match for AMC. When do you want to open?’ I was floored! I’m proud to be one of the few native Hawaiian-owned businesses to open there, and humbled that we were given the opportunity to do so.
Many customers don’t realize that when you walk into our store, you may be talking directly to me, my husband or another member of my ‘ohana. We truly are a small, family-run business. We really do enjoy getting to know our customers, hearing about where our clothes will go, whether to a family gathering, their children’s school events, a fun night out. Success is so much more rewarding when you can share in it with your family.
What’s up next for Kahulale‘a? We are looking forward to better days ahead in 2020. We have been keeping our production teams busy, and we have three new collections all lined up ready to be released! We are excited for the future and all that lies ahead of us.
From top: Ku‘uipo in teal Palapalai and Lehua print; Napua in teal Hopoelehuaopuna (Lehua); Leimakamae dress and men’s Aloha shirt in Teal ‘Ohai Ali‘i; Leimakamae dress in black and gold Hopoelehuaopuna print; Kanani and Wailuku cover-up in aqua Palapalai and Lehua.
Photography by: From top: Photographer Dana LeeHang, Stylist Dustin Caravalho, hair and makeup by Kylie Alexander, Models Naia Torres and Keanu Lono, Jewelry by Tidepool Love; Photo 4: Photographer Kao Saephanh, Model Kamalei Nemoto, Jewelry by Tehotumana Creations; all others Photographer Kao Saephanh, Hair and Makeup by Giovana Beauty, Model Kamalei Nemoto, Jewelry: Pearls by Nagasako Designs, Gold Hawaiian Bracelets by Hawaii’s Heritage Jewelers