Merrie Monarch: Hawaiʻi Fashion Bursting at the Seams


Photo: Stacy Ferreira

Aloha mai kākou,

The Merrie Monarch Festival, an annual celebration of hula and Hawaiian culture, has long been revered for its mesmerizing performances and cultural significance. However, it’s not just the hula competition that draws thousands to gather in Hilo. Merrie Monarch has emerged as a catalyst for the flourishing fashion industry in Hawaiʻi. This convergence of tradition and modernity has not only enriched the cultural landscape but also unveiled a promising economic frontier for our Native Hawaiian communities and the broader pae ʻāina.

The festival’s influence transcends the stage, with apparel, accessories, and jewelry companies leveraging its platform to showcase their creations, weaving cultural narratives into contemporary fashion pieces. At the forefront of this burgeoning industry are Kānaka Maoli owned businesses like Lexbreezy Hawaiʻi, Simply Sisters, Pōmahina, Kahulaleʻa, Kealopiko and Manaola, amongst many others. These brands epitomize the fusion of tradition and trend, offering a kaleidoscope of designs that reflect the essence of Hawaiʻi. From intricate patterns inspired by ancient motifs to modern silhouettes adorned with Indigenous prints, each piece tells a story of resilience and revival.

The allure of Hawaiian fashion has transcended the shores of our island home, captivating audiences worldwide. With its unique blend of authenticity and allure, Hawaiʻi’s fashion scene has carved a niche in the global market, attracting attention from fashion enthusiasts and trendsetters alike. The Merrie Monarch serves as a stellar showcase for ʻōiwi creativity and innovation. Hundreds of shoppers stand in hourlong lines to purchase and proudly wear the newest collections created to debut specifically at Merrie Monarch, making the fashion a perfect complement to the renowned hula performances.

As Hawaiʻi’s fashion scene continues to gain momentum, we need to double down on investments to support maoli fashion and its founders. By investing in local talent and amplifying Indigenous voices, Hawaiʻi has the potential to emerge as a fashion powerhouse on par with global fashion capitals like Los Angeles, New York and Paris. The cultural richness and creative ingenuity of Hawaiʻi’s designers offer a unique perspective that resonates with audiences worldwide.

The road ahead is paved with opportunity, as Hawaiʻi’s fashion industry embraces innovation while honoring our deep seeded history. Collaborations between designers, artists, and cultural practitioners are fostering an ecosystem of creativity, with each collection serving as a testament to the resilience of our Hawaiian heritage.

The Merrie Monarch Festival has played a pivotal role in energizing and amplifying Hawaiʻi fashion, propelling locally owned businesses to the forefront of the global stage. Hawaiʻi’s fashion industry has the potential to redefine the narrative of luxury and style.