“Adorned is the bosom with a Mo’olei” – Maile Naehu
Mo’olei is a poetic term in Hawaiian for one’s grandchildren. A grandparent affectionately refers to their grandchildren as the lei of flowers worn near their heart.
Mo’olei is also Hawaii’s newest fashion must-have. Artist and designer Maile Naehu started the Mo’olei by Maile when taking a break from teaching to care for her own children. Maile shares her story…
Maui Made: How did Mo’olei get its start?
Maile Naehu: I have always been an artist but never thought that I could make a living from it- well, it’s almost two years later and business is starting to picking up! Mo’olei by Maile is a small family business where I integrate and express my lifestyle and values as a wahine Hawai’i in every piece.
MM: What inspires your designs?
Maile: Mo’olei scarf designs are inspired by Hawai’i’s breathtaking color schemes that nature provides. Each piece is individually hand dyed with batik or natural Hawaiian dyes in stream water, sun dried, hand cut and then fashioned into one of several designs. I wish to inspire a lifestyle of simplicity and sustainability as this is my way of life. In light of this I only use recycled and upcycled t-shirts to fashion each scarf. Each shirt is dyed in the stream water that feeds into my home workshop, and dried on the line in my backyard. All of my Mo’olei designs are named after the type of lei which it resembles and has a mo’olelo or story to accompany each piece.
I find great importance in comfort as well as fashion and so Mo’olei scarves are made from light cotton t-shirts, allowing them to be breathable, but when doubled it provides warmth. All of my designs can be worn in at least three different ways making it the finishing touch in casual as well as formal settings.
MM: Tell me about your background.
Maile: I’m a Maui girl from Lahaina, I graduated from Lahainaluna and worked there as a Hawaiian Immersion teacher, and was the MC for the Old Lahaina Lu’au from 2000-2007. I moved to Molokai when my husband, a Moloka’i cowboy asked me to marry him. I have been a hula practitioner for over 30 years and a speaker and educator of ‘Olelo Hawai’i, the Hawaiian language, for 20 years. I was raised in a family of artists and raise my children surrounded by the arts coupled with the Hawaiian language and practices as well.
MM: Where can you find Mo’olei? Where might people have seen them before?
Maile: I have some pieces at Native Intelligence in Wailuku and my own web store. My sister sells my pieces at the Maui Hyatt Regency as well every Friday in the Lobby. I will also be at the Made in Maui County Festival in November at the MACC. In the past, I was a featured designer at MAMo (Maoli Arts Month) at the Bishop Museum and I’ve sold the scarves at the Merrie Monarch Festival.
Want more? Check out Maile’s website and follow her on Facebook:
Mahalo Maile for sharing your inspiring designs and story with us!