Brand Story: Laha‘ole Designs
Posted on August 18 2020
When we first opened the doors of Valia Honolulu, we had just one local vendor, 19th&Whimsy. It soon grew to two (sort of) when we brought in Umbrella Collective. And we were always looking for more! It was a big part of the business plan to have at least 50% of our shop selling items from local vendors. I never knew how much supporting small business would end up meaning to me and now we are closer to 80% of our shop stocking local vendors with over 20+ local or handmade brands in our store.
I think the most amazing thing is that our customers have really followed along in our journey and also truly appreciate handmade craftsmanship, made in Hawai‘i and designed in Hawai‘i. We love sharing the brand’s stories and the passion behind creating these pieces. I’ve always had a love affair with handmade goods and I think it’s completely romantic for a person to dedicate their life to the perfection of one craft, whether it’s making a leather shoe or the best sushi.
I hope to further share these brand stories in our blog. It’s been a while since I’ve done that and I wanted to bring it back. I’m so lucky that I’m able to have a relationship with the vendors we carry and connect with them further on their passion and brand story. And I wanted to share those insights with you too.
Laha‘ole is a modern Hawaiian jewelry and clothing brand. It is owned and operated by Tanya Uyehara who was born and raised on the island of O‘ahu. She was born into a family of craftsmen, musicians, hula dancers and artists. Her grandmother actually made jewelry too! But Tanya didn’t start picking up the craft till later on. Tanya always enjoyed creating and she first started when she was making jewelry for friends and family as gifts in 2012 after having her 4thchild. At that point, it was all just a hobby but soon turned into her business.
Laha‘ole means rare choice or unique in Hawaiian. Tanya’s mission is to bring awareness to Hawaiian culture and highlight Native Hawaiian flora. She wants to bring awareness to some of the 100+ species of endemic Hawaiian plants growing on our islands. This is why you’ll only ever see the island’s unique leaves and flowers in her designs. Tanya’s passion for Hawaiian plants goes beyond just jewelry making. You’ll also find them all over her garden as well as she looks to them each day for inspiration. She’s actually a complete plant geek. If the family is out on a hike, you’ll Tanya all the way in the back taking photos of the plants.
Tanya uses her designs to weave stories to people dear to her as well. Each collection has a kaona (a hidden meaning) made to connect the design to the wearer. Some pieces are actually named after family members as well. She says the most fun thing about her job is creating a piece and then being rewarded by seeing someone enjoy it!
In 2019, Tanya decided to expand into clothing and she didn’t take this lightly. She went back to school to learn how to design and sew! Along with running her business and taking care of her family, she was teaching herself a new skill and totally focused on creating designs that would flatter the modern woman. She also has all original prints in her pieces and the first print she launched with was the īlima, the flower of O‘ahu.
Fun little fact about Tanya: Laha‘ole was not her first business! She used to make cakes!!! Her business was the Sweet and Simple Cake Company and I heard she had a mean green tea cupcake that I’ll have to ask her to make for me one day. I think entrepreneurs always kinda know they want to create and sell. Just have to find the perfect outlet for their creativity!