editor’s note: in honor of my tropical vacay, i couldn’t resist torturing you all a little bit. could we all give a fabulously enthusiastic welcome to alyson helwagen, founder & owner of leichic.com – daily finds for life & style in hawaii. for those of you that aren’t going anywhere for resort season this year (i’m guessing that’s most of us), alyson is here to give us a little guide to bringing the tropics home.
Not everyone is as lucky as your regular writer, who gets to spend this week in Hawaii. But it’s cheaper than ever to travel to the islands right now – so if you are thinking about it at all, now is the time. Beat of Hawaii and Beyond is my favorite tip spot for the best airfare steals. You’ll also find news of hotel deals and specials there too – a great first stop for planning your trip.
But, if you simply can’t go, you can get some virtual aloha too. There are literally TONS of cool things from the 50th state. But here are a few of my favorites:
1. Check out some local Hawaii designers. Fighting Eel is known for their super-soft cotton jersey dresses. Everyone wears these out here, to weekend backyard barbecues, casual cocktail hours, even out to dinner.
Muumuu Heaven takes old muumuus and refashions them into chic dresses. The boutique stocks only things made from recycled materials or sustainable fibers (lots of bamboo fabric with accents made from vintage muumuus), so every dress is one of a kind.
Also, Satori is a brand new Hawaii line launched by a local girl, Lynn Sakutori, who spent the last decade in NYC designing for Kenneth Cole and other big labels. She just came back to the islands to do her own line, and it’s way less island-y than Fighting Eel or MuuMuu Heaven, but still simple, cute and really versatile. You can read more about her on Lei Chic.
2. Splurge on some island-inspired jewelry. One of my favorite jewelry collections is Misa Jewelry. It’s chunky and fun, and designed by a Hawaii native who now lives in LA. You can’t buy it online, but it’s stocked in some LA boutiques, and you can always call to order pieces you see online. Also check out Pua Jewelry and Hinu Jewelry – they are kind of similar, but super popular here. Everyone I know wears pieces from one or both of these lines. The two designers used to have a line that they designed together, but they each do their own lines now.
3. Indulge with some Hawaii beauty products. There are a lot of fake-pineapple and fake-coconut scented potions out there. No one who lives in Hawaii actually uses that stuff. But there are some really good quality skin care and beauty products that are local favorites. The most luxurious Hawaii beauty products are from Malie Kauai, and made with local, organic ingredients. The cream soaps and lotions are used by lots of local women. For natural, floral perfume, there’s Saffron James fragrances. They are based on native Hawaii flowers, which kind of replicates the experience of having a lei around your neck and smelling the sweet scent wafting up. Read more about them on Lei Chic. I also love the locally-made line Pure & True. I know Michelle Garcia, the creator of this line, and once you see her skin, you’re an instant convert to this stuff. Check out Lei Chic for more info on Saffron James and Pure & True!
4. Hawaiian Food + Drink. Okay, forget the mai tai – it’s sort of generically tropical, and not something locals drink regularly. If you really want to sip like a local, try a lychee martini, which is often made here in the spring, when lychees are in season. And local food? It’s more than adding pineapple to anything. To do it yourself, the best cookbook from a local chef is the one from Alan Wong – he is the top five star chef in the state. I have this, but since I’ve eaten a lot of these dishes at his restaurant, and they are so good, I’m hesitant to try to cook them myself. But – worth a try if you aren’t able to visit the restaurant!
5. Aloha for the home. To add a little aloha chic to your home, I love all the artwork, and home décor accents by Kaypee Soh at Somace Design. It’s really modern, but also island-y in a clean, fresh way. He is launching an e-commerce site any day now, so keep checking back! Also, the one thing about Hawaii you notice as soon as you get off the plane is how different the air is here. It’s soft, thanks to the moderate humidity, and you always smell something good – seaspray, flowers, etc. To bring the scent of Hawaii inside, get a reed diffuser from Alora Ambiance. This was the very first reed diffuser on the market, and the owner creates scents using plants from her backyard.
And remember, above everything…it’s about attitude. So, relax, kick back…and aloha!