AAPI Women-Owned Brands Making Waves in Hawaii

By: Mel Simmons
Thumbnail courtesy of Kaia

Rooted in aloha, the Hawaiian fashion, beauty, and lifestyle industry has proven to be a wealth of creativity and originality. To celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, EnVi highlights the entrepreneurial spirit of AAPI women hailing from the Hawaiian Islands and rounds up seven brands that are making waves in Hawaii’s lifestyle scene.

Ten Tomorrow

In 2013, Summer Shigii started the modern-resort line Ten Tomorrow, which specializes in high-quality Ready-to-Wear inspired by the Hawaiian Islands. Despite not having a fashion design background, Shigii dreamed of creating a clothing brand after curating fashion styling boxes for years. Shigii has now grown her brand into a cult following, with locals and tourists flocking to the bright and invigorating everyday basics made out of signature buttery, soft jersey material. Ten Tomorrow includes a plethora of items that reflect Shigii’s passion for creating products that serve her customers’ wants and needs. These launches create quite the buzz in her community and tend to sell out within hours. Some of these eclectic fan favorites include a black tote bag coined “The Food Bag” and face masks. Now, you can find Ten Tomorrow’s products on its website, in pop-ups across the Hawaiian islands, or in its brick-and-mortar store in the artsy town of Kaimuki. 

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Allison Izu

While working on a late-night sewing project in 1998, Allison Izu Song realized that many articles of clothing did not flatter her 5 ‘1 ¾” stature. Allison was set on being the one to change that. After discovering that her idea resonated with a big audience, she founded Allison Izu, a Ready-to-Wear brand specializing in denim for petite frames whose goal is to empower women. Song has found her denim pants displayed on Nordstrom storefronts and featured in The Oprah Magazine. While still staying true to the goal of making clothes for under-represented communities, Song created a line of comfortable and flattering basics for a wider audience. Allison Izu truly has an item for everyone, as her carefully crafted everyday essentials are designed with everybody’s body type in mind. Offering a plethora of elevated items, Allison Izu has grown a large following flocking towards her best sellers, such as the Joanna Top and Sunrise Joggers. 

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Aiming to found a brand centered around movement, color, and fun, Jana Lam started her namesake brand by endlessly screen printing designs in her parents’ garage in 2018. Dedicated to creating an endless summer, JANA LAM focuses on offering brightly-hued accessories and lifestyle products, inspired by and to celebrate the Aloha State. Patrons of the brand flock towards their washi tape, art prints, and tote bags featuring ombré rainbow-hued, tropical prints. The designer appreciates good collaborations and has created various collections with the internationally-recognized lifestyle label Baggu and the high-end baby product brand Coco Moon Hawai’i.

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Tofu Skin Method

Life-long beauty lover and makeup artist Lynne Yee started Tofu Skin Method wishing to solve common skincare questions with a simple answer: less is more. During the COVID-19 pandemic when Lynne didn’t have her clientele flocking to the islands, Tofu Skin Method was conceived. Yee translated her personal DIY skincare routine into a concise collection of simple and effective products. The clean, plant-based skincare line features organically sourced ingredients and includes a balancing cleanser, restoring hydrosol, and nourishing oil elixir. As an extra aesthetic touch, the products are packaged in tofu-inspired rectangular containers. To aid people’s beauty routines, the skincare brand also sells a latex-free Artist Sponge and 100% Organic Bamboo Face Towel.

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KOLOHE JEWELRY is Hawaii’s first custom jewelry bar and retailer, selling handcrafted gold-filled and solid gold jewelry. Growing up in the islands, Rose Wong, CEO and founder of KOLOHE JEWELRY, always found herself getting called Kolohe (the Hawaiian word for rascal) by her family and friends. The businesswoman named her company after this word in the pursuit of pushing boundaries and striving for uniqueness. Despite the glitz and glamor of the jewelry industry, Kolohe aims to be a company for the conscious woman and desires to tell stories through their pieces. The brand is better known for its two custom jewelry bars on the sunny shores of Waikiki, but its high-quality products are also available online. Minimalist gold chains, dangly earrings that drip in pearls, and rings decorated with diamonds are just a taste of the show-stopping spread Kolohe Jewelry has to offer. 

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Jules + Gem 

“Any Place Can Be Paradise” is the well-suited slogan for the home fragrance brand Jules + Gem. Founded in 2016, Jules + Gem was created to fill patrons’ homes with luxurious aromas inspired by the scents of the Hawaiian islands. The brand aims to help people relax and wind down, encouraging self-care through their luxuriously scented products. Whether it’s their famous Pikake Candles, Guava Nectar Reed Diffusers, or Guava Nectar + Lavender Bath Salts, all products are handmade in small batches and can be found online and in various hotels across Hawaii. Jules + Gem has now expanded to include essential oils, car fresheners, and perfume rollers to make everywhere you go smell like home. 

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Maoi Swimwear

Blending Brazilian and Hawaiian values and lifestyles, Brazilian model and entrepreneur Julia Muniz Robinson created Maoi Swimwear to celebrate diversity, sustainability, and inclusivity in 2020. Recently, Cayla Moore, native Hawaiian artist and entrepreneur, became a co-owner of the swimwear brand and has aided Julia in empowering swimwear for the modern beach woman. Maoi Swimwear is proudly ethically made in Bali and features Italian fabrication. Consisting of high-quality, confidence-boosting swimsuits, the brand has something for everyone, from string bikinis to full-coverage one-pieces. Some of their most popular items are their vibrant blue ribbed Tatiana top, flattering Classico Cheeky Bikini Bottom, and monochromatic Juju Onseie. 

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These AAPI women-owned brands in Hawaii are a perfect example of how the Asian American and Pacific Islander community stands for diversity and creativity. Minority-owned small businesses often encounter challenges as they attempt to break into the industry, so supporting your neighborhood small businesses helps to achieve more diversity in the market. That’s why it is always important to support AAPI-owned brands regardless of the season.

Want to read about more AAPI-owned brands to shop from? Check out EnVi’s guide to Five AAPI-Owned Fashion and Accessory Brands here.