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It’s All Relative

Family ties help take an island brand to a fresh new destination.

In Nu‘uanu, Meleana Estes and Danene Lunn give a sneak peek of Manuheali‘i’s resort collection.

Manuheali‘i’s Danene Lunn’s got a whole new groove. As 2012 comes to a close, the Kailua native is set to unveil a new collection of chic resort wear under her coveted local label. (To see her brand’s popularity, one need only witness the throngs of Japanese fans that flock to her flagship store.) But Lunn is not stopping at the Pacific. She already sees the glimmering lights of Manhattan in the distance.
And it’s all thanks to her niece and protégé, Meleana Estes. (Though cousins, the partners refer to each other as aunt and niece in perfect island style.) Originally from Kaua‘i, Estes, née Blaich, is a Punahou grad who earned her stripes at New York’s Fashion Institue of Technology in 2003. While in Gotham, the budding designer created her own line of Hawai‘i-inspired handbags, Meleana, earning a few nods from the shopper’s bible, Lucky. Eventually though, as with many an isle child, Estes heard the call of family and returned home in 2007.

At the suggestion of a mutual friend, the dynamic duo paired up a year and a half ago and have been going strong ever since. Lunn brings in the experience; Estes, the creativity and freshness that reminds Lunn of her early days. “I’ve learned so much as a designer from Danene,” shares Estes.

The two now aim to appeal to a more selective audience. Out in December, their resort looks elevate Manuheali‘i to a whole new level. Playing with patterns and sensuous colors, the breezy dresses and cover-ups—perfect poolside in Wailea—invoke the laid-back grace of the ’60s and’70s. Think Mad Men meets vintage Hawaiian Airlines, with a dash of Deneuve.

And the vision quest doesn’t stop there. After a visit to New York Fashion Week this past fall, the pair realized the Big Apple may be ready for a bit of Hawaiian style. While exact plans are still in the works, the finished product will certainly be a perfect fit.