The team at HB wants to shine a light on women we admire and are inspired by. Our first to feature on the HB Journal is Hawaiian author, entrepreneur and style icon - Meleana Estes of jewelry brand, HEI Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi.
First off, sending hope and prayers to your fellow Hawaiian's during this time, would love to hear your first hand experience of the heartache from the fires and how you direct people to help at this time.
“Mahalo for the words of aloha for Maui. It is a very hard time in Hawaiʻi, obviously for Maui especially, and it is going to be a really long road to recovery. It has been amazing to witness the outpouring of support for Maui coming from all around the world, but what is truly remarkable is the strength of the Maui Community. It is so inspiring in the way they take care of one another even when they are affected themselves. I know that every little bit contributed is helping to lift spirits and is so needed. If you do feel pulled to contribute we (HIE Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi and individually) have been donating to Hawaiʻi Community Foundationʻs Maui Strong. And mahalo in advance!
What inspired you to start HIE Heirlooms?
My partner Noel and I were inspired to start HIE because we could see how a time honored tradition that we both grew up with was not being continued. We grew up together, our parents were very close friends since their high school years. We share memories of our Tūtū’s [grandmothers’] arms filled with bangles and eagerly awaiting our 16th birthdays to hopefully receive a bangle inscribed with our own names. Just like our mothers who had been wearing one since it was made for them when we were born. These heirlooms, a part of many Hawaiʻi ʻohana are treasured and passed on through generations. We became moms in the same year and when our children were around 7, we realized that we had not yet made a bangle with our children’s names carrying on this tradition – and knew many of our generation had not either. Most of the artisans who made our own treasured bangles had passed and the style had evolved. Wanting to create bangles that were similar to the ones in our ʻohana collections we set out to design our own! We made all the samples with our kids names and our sisters' kids names, figuring that if it didn’t work out we would at least have our bracelets for our family!
We take inspiration from Hawaiʻi’s last monarch, Queen Liliʻuokalani, who originated the Hawaiian bracelet tradition, and from our own family matriarchs and all the women of Hawaiʻi—and beyond—who embody a regal spirit.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
My Tūtū told me when I moved to New York City “keep my Hawaiian heart open but always stay true to that Hawaiian inside of you.” She was so proud to be Native Hawaiian and born and raised in a place so rich in culture but always excited to learn and absorb new places, people and cultures. I feel this sentiment has been a guiding light. I LOVE all the places I have lived and friends I have met along the way and am still collecting new friends and beautiful experiences. But Hawaii is where my heart is and it grounds me. The ocean, my family, the music, our traditions, lei it fills me up.
Describe your personal style
I am a HUGE lover of vintage, my own vintage muʻumuʻu collection might be a little concerning, it is so big! Maybe because of this but also because of being raised in Hawaiʻi with bright hues everywhere, I do love big bold beautiful prints! But.. a perfect white tee or button down with some high waisted shorts is part of the uniform as well! So I would say you could call my style flirty and feminine and casual with a tad bit of cool (to attempt to look effortless like Jane Birkin- hee hee).
What is your favorite Hunter Bell piece from the fall collection?
I am wearing the Sierra Dress, which I love! Its so fun to put on, immediately lifts my mood when I wear it and it looks equally cute with sneakers or some edgy flats. I also love the Reynolds top and the new Jamison dress are so classic!
Can you share some of your favorite pieces from HIE Heirlooms?
I love love the Aloha Nui with diamonds right now. It is customizable but the message of “aloha nui” is an abundance of love, which is really being felt right now with the Maui fires. It is also such a nice addition to a stack of other beautiful bangles (HIE or not) and the diamonds add a bit of sparkle. I also love the 1881, named for an heirloom Noel was gifted that was her great great great grandmothers (the interior engraving reads 1881), this particular bangle was a gift from the Our Queen Liliʻuokalani to her great great great grandmother Nakanealoha whom Noel is named after.
When you live in paradise, where or what is your favorite escape?
I love love to walk and walk and walk in New York City and just soak up that beautiful city! But… with a little more time.. PARIS! Inspiration coming out of every single turn! But, truthfully Hawaiʻi is full of so many beautiful escapes, and hikes and beaches that we can only get to with our boat and sometimes we travel and travel and realize that we have not even spent enough time enjoying all the special places in our own home of Hawaii. There are 8 islands after all!
Who is inspiring you right now? Any favorite follows?
for some wardrobe inspo
for some calming motivation
because I am about to do a renovation and it's always aspirational