hawaii shopping boutiques

Discovering Oahu’s Local Fashion Brands On Your Next Hawaii Trip

In Fashion Features by Victoria Roberts

Whether you’re a first-timer or a returning traveler to Hawaii, Oahu is typically the ideal spot due to its visitor-friendly attractions, starting with its capital, Honolulu, and famous beaches like Waikiki. Thus, it’s no surprise that tourists on Oahu spent $848.9 million through the first half of 2023, growing by 15% compared to the same period in 2019 and beating out visitor spending in the Big Island and Kauai.

Besides its natural wonders, Oahu is also the perfect place to visit if you want to discover and support local fashion brands that honor Hawaiian culture or use traditional materials in their clothing. So, here are a few tips on exploring Oahu’s rich fashion scene on your next Hawaii trip.

Opt for local markets over malls
Oahu has its fair share of shopping malls, like Kahala Mall in Waikiki and Waikele Premium Outlet in Waipahu. However, as covered in a previous article on ‘How To Support Local Fashion Brands When Traveling,’ it’s best to go beyond the brochure and instead search for local markets and pop-up shops to visit. For instance, Malama Hawaii Makers Market features 150 local artists, makers, designers, and collectors of handmade crafts and has three locations in Hawaii Kai, Waikiki, and Haleiwa Town — all pet-friendly and offering free parking spaces for market attendees.

Travel to shopping districts or neighborhoods
Instead of visiting specific shops or markets, you can also choose to travel across distinct shopping districts or areas. Since you can easily book car rentals in Oahu, it’s easy to drive around neighborhoods like the eclectic Kaimuki, filled with niche shops and boutiques, and Mauka, with its sustainable local labels like Sea x Seven. Whether you plan to spend the entire day shopping or simply need a convenient way to transport the clothes you buy for yourself or your family, you can choose between a small cozy vehicle for two or a full-size family SUV for utmost comfort.

Attend local events
While the possibility of attending fashion shows and events would depend on when you’re visiting Oahu, there are regular celebrations that you can hopefully incorporate into your travel planning. For example, Mu’umu’u Month is celebrated in Honolulu every January, paying tribute to the cultural and historical significance of island wear, a loose dress called mu’umu’u. For this year’s celebration, Waiwai Collective organized a mu’umu’u mending workshop where attendees are given pre-loved and vintage mu’u and taught basic sewing techniques for repairing, patching, or hemming them. When attending such events, you get to know the community at a deeper level for genuine cultural exchange.

Research on local brands ahead of your trip
Lastly, if you’re not the spontaneous type who can freely explore pop-up markets, fairs, or neighborhoods, it helps to create a list of local brands to look into so you can better arrange your itinerary. Those staying in the capital can refer to this article on the best boutiques and shops in Honolulu, according to locals. Among these are Summer Shiigi of Ten Tomorrow boutique for t-shirt dresses with colorful and tropical prints, Salvage Public at Ward Village for surf-inspired streetwear, and Kealopiko at Monsarrat Avenue for aloha shirts and traditional clothing like pareos or sarongs.

When visiting these markets and shops, aim to make small talk with the business owners to know more about how items are sourced, designed, or produced. Not only do you get to support the local economy, but you can also make more intentional shopping choices by knowing the story behind the clothes you buy.

About Victoria Roberts

Originally from Brazil, Victoria Roberts is a fashion writer with a background in marketing, styling, PR, and social media. Victoria moved to the United States to pursue a career in fashion journalism, and she is currently a student at Santa Monica College in Los Angeles.

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