It used to be when someone received a compliment on a pair of earrings or a new shirt, the other person would say “thanks,” and the dialogue was over. Not anymore. The conversation has changed on Kaua`i. There’s a story behind the jewelry, or shirt, or bag, or hat: Who on island made it, how they started their business, what kind of materials they used and at which art night they sell it. Locally made products lend a deeper meaning to all we buy. They’ve also provided a relationship to purchases and a commitment to the community.
This holiday season, we feature three stores that consistently support local artists and feature a wide selection of their products. Check out our gift guide with some of the bestselling items from each of their shops.
Kukui’ula Shopping Village, Po’ipu
Open daily 10 a.m. -9 p.m.
Halele’a owners Anna and Chad Ulmer have been featuring Kaua’i artists for seven years at their shop in Kukui’ula Village in Po’ipu, and they have noticed a change over time.
“We have really seen the quality go up,” Anna said. In addition to fine art featured on their walls, they feature an array of jewelry, unique house wares, and clothing and hats from their bestselling line, Machine Machine.
Chad said visitors consistently return each year to find the unique, flattering and comfortable Machine Machine dresses made by local designer Shannon Hiramoto, adding that the dress style fits women “from ages 16 to 80 years old.”
“Shannon never mass-produces; she still sews every piece by hand herself,” Chad said. Halele’a also carries Machine Machine trucker hats, hand-sewn with vintage fabrics.
The boutique carries Leilani jewelry, created by local artist Rebekah Kirkpatrick, whose business was birthed a few years ago when her daughter asked for earrings for her 8th birthday. Rebekah decided to make them herself, and hasn’t stopped. Her bangles and necklaces come with hand-stamped charms that are customized with letters and words.
Clutches made by artists Jana Lam and Julie Leiko are also featured, as well as Kaua’i map totes by Ashley Johnston. Working with all these local artists means less environmental impact as well.
“Nothing is shipped here; we leave zero footprint,” Anna said, which adds to the benefit of supporting artists who live on-island.
A Ell Atelier
Old Kapa’a Town
Open daily 1 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Clothing designer and store owner Angelique Ell was so inspired by what local artists create on Kaua’i that she started an event for them years ago, what is now known as First Saturday in Kapa’a.
“Buying Kaua`i-made products is about promoting the arts, something I feel strongly about—finding your passion, doing what you love, and supporting that in other people,” Angelique said.
One of the biggest draws to A. Ell Atelier in Kapa’a town is her line of eco-friendly, stylish clothing designed and sewn in the shop. Bestsellers include men’s aloha shirts in unique prints and styles, and women’s dresses, skirts and shirts in an array of colors made of soft, stretchy bamboo fabric.
The shop also features many local products like Kopa Kaua`i soap handmade in Hanalei offering scents of Peppermint Rose, Lavender Mint and Hanalei Breeze.
The variety of jewelry made by local designers in A. Ell Atelier is expansive. One of her longest-selling local designer is Cor jewelry, unique sunrise shell and beach glass earrings, bracelets and necklaces made by Caitlin Ross-Odom. Angelique has relationships with all of the artists she works with, which makes the exchange more meaningful.
“There’s a connection to the products I’m buying, there’s a depth to them because I’m directly supporting people on Kaua`i.”
Mon. – Sat. 10:30 a.m.- 6 p.m.
Oskar’s Boutique features over 25 local artists in their Kilauea store. As an artist herself, owner Annie Sadler appreciates the challenges that artists face.
“It’s important to offer an outlet for the many creative and talented artists in the community,” she said. “It’s also inspiring for others who realize they can make a living as an artist.”
Oskar’s offers Noe undergarments, a sexy, feminine lingerie line created by twin sisters raised on Kaua’i, whose pieces are inspired by the bikini-clad life on island.
She also sells the popular ‘See That Fly’ recycled t-shirt bags created by local artist Courtney Zietz, who helped to start the Kilauea art night this past summer, now the last Saturday of each month.
One of Oskar’s most popular products is clothing line Kealopiko. A local company that makes men, women, and children’s eco-fabric clothing where they take their products a step further by including cultural, historical and natural wisdom of Hawai’i on their products, such as Hawaiian proverbs, animals or historical ali’i (chiefs). A portion of all their proceeds go to cultural education and environmental conservation in Hawai`i, which is yet another reason to support local artists, because they support back. It’s a cyclical gift of giving, which is what this season is all about.