Manaola Yap was brought up in an artistic family. His mother is kumu hula Nani Lim-Yap and his uncle, Sonny Lim, is a renowned singer and musician, to name but two members of the talented North Kohala family. Manaola himself grew up studying hula and become proficient as a hula practitioner.
During those formative years, he also learned the art and technique of costume creation and styling from his mother, and that piqued in him another interest: fashion. He soon began to wonder how to merge the two passions.
Today, his fashion label, MANAOLA, is one of the shining stars of contemporary Hawaiian style. To broadly describe it, one might say it’s “back to the future.”
That is to say, his designs are deeply rooted in ancient Hawaiian spirituality and the island chain’s natural beauty. But the color palettes he uses and the patterns he creates are thoroughly modern. The cuts of some of his most elegant styles can easily be seen as futuristic. And it’s this combination of a deep cultural past interwoven with contemporary tastes and futuristic thinking that gives his fashions a rare power. And makes him beloved in Hawai`i and beyond.
“The foundation of the brand is from family experiences: music, hula, culture, generations of information and teachings taken to a creative space,” he says. “I got my fashion sense from my tutu and mother. Many of my patterns are from hula traditions, places, and storytelling.” As a designer, Manaola says he starts with intention and purpose, translating the patterns he sees in nature.
“With any Hawaiian motif, whether it be on kapa cloth, gourd design, or tattoos, Hawaiian design is similar. It is a series of repetitious patterns that are found in nature. One of the biggest things to recognize is that it’s about the repetitious patterns … the ocean, the mountains, the foliage … it’s about connecting to nature through art.”
Manaola calls those patterns ‘sacred geometry.’
“These patterns go deep for me,” he says. “That means things that have been passed down through our family spiritually. Every print story has purpose and intention. A big part of our Hawaiian-ness is our ability to tell stories, whether through an ancient chant or a hula. I tell stories through design.”
Beyond being lovely-to-wear pieces — though they are that also — Manaola’s designs take inspiration from a higher, more reverent space. “The balancing of positive and negative space, light and dark, hard and soft … the balancing of opposites … the hum and vibration of the universe … we look at it at that level,” he says. “Life itself is a repetitious pattern, a continuum.”
THE MAGIC OF THE BRAND
Digging into the hum and vibration of the universe may be a lot to ask of a shirt or dress, but somehow for Manaola it’s quite natural.
“The designs work beyond themselves,” he says. “The word ‘Manaola’ means ‘life force’ and the brand represents the ability to find our own destiny. When we started MANAOLA, we saw a huge need to revolutionize Hawaiian fashion. It was stuck in a missionary mindset. Manaola burst through with color and patterns and a mindset of: ‘We need to change this.’ We came in and pushed.”
The process he uses to usher a design from his head and heart to fabric is also steeped in tradition. Using an ancient Polynesian stamping technique called ‘ohe kāpala, Manaola hand-carves the design onto a piece of bamboo lath. It is then digitized and transferred onto the high-quality fabrics his company is known for.
Once again, Manaola’s back-to-the-future ethos is on display.
His approach stretches beyond the present in one other significant way. “We are telling our stories,” he says, “to make sure our culture lives beyond this time and place. That’s our job. To open the gateway for others.
“True Hawaiian experience cannot be bought,” he concludes, “it must be given. That’s the spirit of aloha. The non-tangible giving of ourselves, and our stories is priceless. That’s the beauty of our art.”
RESORT SPOTLIGHT – HEALTHY & DELICIOUS
Hawai`i Island may be know the world over for its gorgeous beaches, warm ocean waters, and majestic mountains, but its agricultural products are superstars in their own right. Think coffee beans and macadamia nuts for two quick examples. In fact, the rich volcanic soils are perfect for a wide variety of crops, from breadfruit and bananas to avocados and tomatoes.
It is this freshly grown cornucopia of foods that Island Greens uses on its menu that allows the new eatery in the Food Court at Queens’ Marketplace to stand apart.
“At Island Greens, we offer customizable salads, bowls, and wraps with an emphasis on locally grown produce,” says owner Keani Go, who opened the outlet with her husband Abraham in January. “To drink, we carry locally made kombucha, 100 percent Kona cold brew on tap, and cold-pressed juices from Liquid Life in Waimea. Add one of our healthy grab-and-go snacks to complete a balanced, delicious, and nourishing meal.”
A popular menu item to try? The Kamuela Bowl ($16) consists of warm wild rice with Kona coffee-rubbed steak, avocado, cheddar cheese, fried onions, cilantro, sweet corn, local tomatoes, lime, sheredded carrot, and creamy chipotle lime dressing.