There is something beautiful in work done by hand. In this era of technology, human touch and authenticity bring great value to products. It’s no wonder craftswoman, Meleana Estes, has inspired so many with her work, from lei making to fashion design.
Raised on a flower farm on Kauai, Meleana is a country girl at heart. When she moved to Oahu to attend Punahou School for seventh grade, she got a taste of the city buzz and fell in love. “My dad got us surfboard lockers down in Waikiki”, Estes recalls, “and I was on the bus every weekend to get to the beach, so Waikiki was a huge part of my childhood”.
Meleana draws inspiration from lifestyle, shaped by the places she’s lived. After attending college in Boston, she ended up heading to New York City to attend The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). While at FIT, she launched a small handbag line using the bottoms of Mu’umu’us (traditional Hawaiian dress) that became more popular than she expected. Estes’ designs didn’t stop at handbags, however, as her deep love of textiles brought her to apparel.
“I started collecting vintage fabric and old mu’umu’u’s to alter and use to make clothes. I love love love the big bold prints. Surf Line is an iconic part of this era in Hawaii’s fashion, so I became aware of the brand as I sort of realized my own interest in fashion”, says Estes.
Given her reputation for loving the ‘60s and ‘70s eras, she was beyond excited to work with Surf Line Hawaii in 2017 to design a nostalgic women’s collection, working with the massive archive of prints, fabrics and patterns dating back to 1964.
When asked about the design process, Meleana explains, “the archive is enough to make any designer need to go on oxygen to calm the excitement when digging into this pile of inspiration! For this project we looked at Surf Line’s iconic styles from the ‘60s and ‘70s and tried to breathe new life into them. It was so fun to climb around the fabric warehouse and choose prints that fit each silhouette. The era of fabric had to match the silhouette, so it was like one big, fun puzzle”.
Inspired by icons like Twiggy of the ‘60s, and laid back 70’s vibe of Jane Birkin, Meleana created a modernized archival collection that bridges the gap between women of Hawaii from the past and present. “Our beach-to-luau lifestyle is what I always want to design for, and the diverse sophisticated woman that falls into that category”, says Estes.
“I think here in Hawaii, we are so lucky to have constant beauty, but also this lifestyle where we get to be casual in our dress and people love fashion but trends are not as important. We can be inspired by our lifestyle”
"I love the tie top. I own way too many high waisted skirts and shorts and the tie top pairs perfectly! It can look sophisticated and polished with a wedge heel"
"I love my Cheeter Shorts, too! I like to wear them with a button down and some strapped sandals or even with rubber slippers and a bikini top for the beach! The idea for both of these pieces was to have your staples but in some fun funky patterns!"
Meleana has found herself with a significant role in keeping "Old Hawaii" fashion and culture alive, from lei making to designing the Surf Line Hawaii Women's collection. “I love the era that Surf Line is born from”, says Estes, “and during this same era, you would never see a lady out on Friday evening without a lei around her neck".
She describes the synergy between her contemporary lei art and the Surf Line Hawaii collection as both “symbols of Old Hawaii, both stories that are so special and should be told and practiced. If we can get women to wear aloha wear every Friday to cocktails with their friends that would be my dream!"
Meleana perpetuates this history in Waikiki through lei making classes. She recently partnered with Surf Line Hawaii for a follow along lei making lesson, cocktails and shopping at our International Market Place shop. Meleana belives, "Waikīkī has such history and International Market Place is such a huge part of this. Although it is a different place then it started out to be, it is still a place where people gather and feel the spirit of Waikiki”.