The mo‘olelo of the intertwinement of two lovers, Pōhuehue and Kauna‘oa, is one of faith. The two grew fond of each other and spent time together on the beach. In a huge argument, Pōhuehue fled by canoe and made his way to Lāna‘i. Despite being separated for several years, Kauna‘oa remained hopeful that her lover would return. After dreaming about her one night, Pōhuehue scattered the flowers of the hau tree into the ocean. The flowers made their way to Kahana Bay. Kauna‘oa called upon her ‘aumakua (family guardian) and followed the path of the flowers to Pōhuehue on the shores of Lāna‘i. The reuniting of the lovers is said to be why strands of kauna‘oa are often interlaced with the pōhuehue vines, both growing together on the beach and in lei-making.
It was a winning combination of creative conversations during pau hana, ingenuity and a desire to honor the culture of Hawaiʻi that Aloha Modern came to be. The designs of the brand’s products from its beach towels to bedsheets are inspired by the stars, ocean and landscapes–as seen from an island-rooted perspective. Through their brand, founders Mālia Kaʻaihue and Reyn Mukawa offer products that can be used in daily life, but have the heart of an heirloom. The duo’s prints authentically share island stories, honor the past, all while offering a genuine product for generations to come.
By day, Kaʻaihue is president of DTL, a strategy, design, and communication studio grounded in Hawaiian culture. The architecture firm, where Mukawa works, specializes in environmentally and culturally appropriate designs that add value to the community. Aloha Modern began as a creative project for Kaʻaihue and Mukawa to dive into after their day jobs. However, the ethos of their work—to develop and foster authentic Hawaiʻi stories—pulses through the heart of their shared business.
The brand started with bags and round towels as its owners found that locals sought something that was more in line with their taste and not designed for tourists. Aloha Modern designs are intimate, as its founders say they design for their families. While Aloha Modern inspiration remains close to home, the genuine reflection of local culture is an aspect of its brand that has attracted other international markets. Today, the company has even earned a significant interest from customers in Japan.Within the last four years, Ka‘aihue and Mukawa’s collaboration has led to a thriving lifestyle brand. Apparent in its prints, the original desire of Aloha Modern's founders has materialized. These days, their line of products includes apparel, beach blankets, towels, bedsheets and totes. Each item on Aloha Modern's shop is accompanied by amoʻolelo (story) in the product description, which explains the meaning behind the item’s name and design.