PAIKO OHANA: MELEANA ESTES

Meet our friend Meleana: fashion designer, columnist for Hawaii Luxury magazine, and master lei maker. A couple times a year Meleana teaches a special workshop at Paiko on the art of haku. Catch the next one on Wednesday July 18th

I know your grandmother was a haku master. Do you think you would be so passionate about haku were it not for her?

Yes, My Tutu was an amazing lei maker.  Her fascination and love the traditional style of lei making turned into a business for her, but she never made one lei that was not completely filled with Aloha.  She always thought of her client and their personal look and likes and catered each lei to match them. She shared her lei in the most giving way with nothing expected in return.  With all that being said, yes, I can completely attribute my love for lei making and the spirit of sharing a lei to my Tutu.  She was also known for her wreaths, puakenikeni leis and frequently did large projects such as weddings and funerals, taking on any floral challenge.  

My cousins and I would help her or just sit at her table and talk to her while she worked and we were always adorned ourselves, for EVERY occasion so it is ingrained in all of us.  Personally, my own passion for lei making developed recently since she has passed and I LOVE to make Haku leis.  I love the architecture and color combination of a Haku lei.  My cousins make the most beautiful Puakenikeni leis and mine are terrible!  My sister loves to Haku as well, but makes the most stunning bouquets, using her techniques.  We all have something we have gravitated to.

 

Do you follow the same technique as your grandmother or is your style different?

Yes, I follow and teach the same Wili style of Haku Lei making that she used and taught.  In the past year I have also enjoyed learning different techniques for different styles of leis… if there is a particular material I want to work with, I play with different techniques to make that flower or fern shine!  I definitely have a different style that my Tutu… I will never be as good!  I try and try but its a work in progress!  She had an effortless way with flowers… they obeyed her, she loved them and anything she touched turned out stunning.

 
Do you have a favorite haku flower combination?

I can’t say I have a complete favorite, but I am a LOVER of color.  Any chance I get to use Mamo, the bright yellow Lehua I am thrilled.  That combined with some hot pink ti-leaf is gorgeous!  I love to use the native Palapalai as my fern…. its not always easy to find and its delicate, but so so pretty.  
 
 

 

 

Whats the last haku plant material experiment that was a success? Any that were failures?

I made a lovely anthirium lei for a photo shoot.. I was suprised it came out!  I had a lei flop using big hibiscus.  I couldn’t resist trying because the colors are so fantastic, but it didn’t survive for more than an hour!  

 

What’s most interesting to you about teaching haku?

I love how every student just goes for it!  Maybe I am used to workshops where you were told the lei had to turn out a certain way, but people are so creative!  I love that every student takes my instruction and just goes for it and everyone is so stoked and proud of their finished lei, when none of them look at all the same!  I am also so impressed with how fast everyone makes a lei!  It would take me 5 hours when I was younger!  I love sharing this skill, it is so fun and gratifying!