How the Lei Collection Started: Na Lei o Hawaiʻi

Just before Kili was born, I had dreams of designing every single piece of fabric I used. I wanted it all to be exclusively designed and created by me. I'm not an artist and my skill are somewhat limited but my lofty goals are what push me to be better, to learn more, and to try new things. It's funny because of the hundreds of things I've designed or drawn concepts for, only a small fraction has actually made it to an actual product. Sometimes other shops will "beat you to it" (we live on an island and we are inspired by many of the same things), sometimes the concept isn't that good once it hits paper, and sometimes it needs some work and needs to go back to the drawing board.

Shortly after Kili was born I realized that I couldn't do it all. I mean I tried to but with teaching full time, raising two keiki, and now this growing shop, something had to give. And I finally decided to trust my idea concept with a local artist and to bring it to life.

This is my original concept design...just some jumbo crayons trying to show the layout, cut to a square size and folded up so I could visualize the swaddle.

I wanted a lei swaddle. I wanted to see baby's wrapped in lei. I came across a mama who was painting and I fell in love with her style. Unfortunately our timing didn't work out and even though I wasn't in a huge rush for production, it had to get done and I had to make a deadline.

Progression of my design concept...went from crayons to the iPad

I was a little discouraged but the stars aligned once again and I came across Emily's work. I didn't know her but something told me to reach out and see if she would be willing to hear my concept out (it was this post that made me want to see if she would do this collab!). To start this process all over again was actually pretty scary, like my idea was out there with someone else but I had faith that I was making the right move and I'm so glad I did!

After working with Emily over the last year, I feel like I've known her for forever. I've watched her grow as an artist and business owner and she is such an inspiration of how I would like to raise my keiki, speaking Hawaiian (we're working on it).

Scrolling back through all of our conversations, it's amazing to see how far we've come. The concept of this lei was lei that were special to me and my 'ohana and quickly grew into more. Besides lei that I cherished, we also added some native lei.

Baby Mehana was born just a couple days after I got the lei swaddle in!

 

You know when something in your head finally makes it out? This is exactly what I wanted and more! A cool fact about this particular print is that Emily painted it. The background color is the actual paper she used! 

What made this first design special is that it also features an olelo noeau (Hawaiian proverb) by Mary Kawena Pukui:
He lei poina ʻole ke keiki
A beloved child is a lei never forgotten  (#740)

 

Emily and her son, Kaʻihi.

To learn more about Emily, her shop, and amazing mission please visit her website: https://kaulumaika.com/.

Mahalo nui loa for loving this design series as much as I do. This collab is so close to my heart, and even though this design concept took some time to be born, this first design is dedicated to my Kili girl.

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