At Maoli we are in business to bridge Native Hawaiian, traditional wisdom with modern styles. At a time when indigenous representation is so important, we wanted to create a clothing and lifestyle brand that positively portrays the values of Native Hawaiians and cultural allies in an approachable, 21st century way.
Interested in learning more? Here are answers to 10 questions you might be asking about Maoli.
1. What does Maoli mean in Native Hawaiian?
Maoli is defined in the Hawaiian language (ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi) as native, indigenous, aborigine, genuine, true, real, actual.
Maoli is used frequently in the term “kanaka maoli” to refer to the “native people” or “Native Hawaiians” of Hawaiʻi.
2. How do you pronounce Maoli?
Maoli is pronounced “M-o-w-l-e-e.”
The “ao” in maoli is pronounced the same way as you would the “o-w” in “cow”, and the “i” is pronounced the same way as you would the “e-e” in “free”.
If the Native Hawaiian language is new to you, we would strongly recommend practicing saying Maoli out loud a few times and listening to the recording. We strongly believe in the power in spoken language and we want to make sure everyone who is part of our community has an opportunity to learn the proper pronunciation.
3. What is Maoli?
Maoli is a small, Native Hawaiian-owned apparel business. We are a genuine, culturally accurate Native Hawaiian brand for the coming-of-age generation that refuses to compromise on perspectives, identities, principles or styles.
Our story began with a mission to empower native Hawaiian people and cultural allies by producing modern, 21st century apparel that accurately reflects indigenous values and culture. With each purchase, you are investing in indigenous entrepreneurship.
4. Why did you choose Maoli as your name?
At Maoli, we chose this name specifically because it expresses who we are and what we aim to do in just a concise, single word.
We are native, indigenous, aborigine, genuine, true, real, actual.
The word Maoli exists in analogous forms across Polynesia to represent indigeneity. The people of ʻAotearoa (New Zealand) use the word, Māori. The people of Tahiti (French Polynesia) use the word, Maʻohi. The people of Sāmoa use the word, Maoʻi.
In this way, Maoli for Native Hawaiians is also a word that very clearly traces our deeper ancestral ties as native peoples across the Pacific.
We are Maoli.
5. What are the Maoli Values?
At Maoli, we are guided by three Hawaiian values to Hōʻihi (Respect), Hoʻomau (Perpetuate), and Hoʻoulu (Grow) our community.
We use these three Hawaiian values to define who we are as a business. These three values are at the forefront of everything that we do, leading us in creating new designs, running our business, and engaging with the world.
- Hōʻihi (Respect)—Our designs embody culturally-accurate, respectful representations of indigenous identity, which native people and allies can wear with pride in the 21st century
- Hoʻomau (Perpetuate)—Our designs are embedded with stories, passing down traditional cultural knowledge and life lessons from generation to generation
- Hoʻoulu (Grow)—Our designs inspire the proliferation of indigenous culture across continents and ethnic groups to cultivate and increase our cultural ambassadors and allies.
Again, if the Hawaiian language is new to you and you would like to learn a bit, we would strongly recommend practicing saying Hōʻihi, Hoʻomau, and Hoʻoulu out loud a few times and listening to the recording. The ideas of Hōʻihi, Hoʻomau, and Hoʻoulu are found across Hawaiian culture and great words to know.
6. What is the Maoli Mission?
At Maoli, we like to say that we are not just an indigenous-owned business: we are indigenous by design.
Our mission is to empower Native Hawaiian people and cultural allies through modern apparel that positively showcases and embraces indigenous identity. We aim to do this in four distinct ways:
- Transparent Business Decisions—keeping our community informed on what we do and how we do it.
- Culturally Conscious Designs—ensuring that all our designs accurately reflect Hawaiian culture and values.
- Sustainable Materials—using recycled textiles or organic garments that are good for your body and safe for the environment.
- Empowering Content—making things that matter to the Hawaiian community.
Interested in learning more about how we are a transparent, culturally conscious, sustainable, empowerment-driven business? Follow us on Facebook or Instagram to stay up to date on our latest business announcements and experiences.
7. When was Maoli created?
Maoli was launched in a very, very small apartment through a gif-filled email on November 23, 2020. With a lot of love and support from family, friends, and our community we continue to strive to create and grow Maoli as a small, local business.
8. Who created Maoli and why?
Aloha, my name is Kaipo Lucas! I’m the founder at Maoli.
I grew up in Kaʻaʻawa on the North Shore of Oʻahu playing guitar, fishing with my dad, and attending volleyball practice at Kamehameha. I love chocolate-peanut butter smoothies, waking up to watch the sunrise with my parents, and watching anime.
Maoli is a way for me to see myself in the world. As a Native Hawaiian, I wanted to create a brand for Native Hawaiian people and cultural allies that positively and accurately showcases who we are native people.
Because, if I do say so myself, we are pretty great!
With Maoli, I wanted to be part of a bigger solution to help respect, perpetuate, and grow Native Hawaiian culture in a 21st century way. I see how indigenous people are often represented in the world and I kept thinking, “We can do better.”
I was also struggling with a bigger issue surrounding how native people were being represented. “How can I bridge the two worlds I walk in? One world is modern, filled with technology, and rapid growth. The other is traditional, culturally grounded, and based in ancestral wisdom. I’m a Native Hawaiian that works at a high-tech company. Where is there a space for me? How can I be a modern Maoli?”
This was the seed that started Maoli. I wanted to help fill a gap I was personally experiencing by creating Native Hawaiian clothing that I can wear to work, the movies, while traveling, etc. I wanted to recognize that as a Native Hawaiian person I’m steeped in both ancestral wisdom and a modern day world. This is what makes native people so special, we are adaptive and resilient, but never compromising on our core values.
At Maoli, we believe clothing should be a celebration of our indigenous, Native Hawaiian identity and inclusivity is essential. We are looking to create a future where we can wear our heart, and our culture, on our sleeve in a respectful, modern, fashionable way.
9. Can I wear Maoli clothes if I’m not Native Hawaiian?
Yes! All of our apparel at Maoli are designed with the understanding that they can be worn by people from all walks of life. Our designers uphold the highest standards of excellence when creating designs that are culturally appropriate for the world. We want our apparel to serve as a catalyst to connect Hawaiʻi.
Still, we would ask all Maoli supporters to respect the products and therefore the cultural, indigenous integrity that is built within the Maoli brand. Yes, our apparel is cool. Yes, it is culturally-accurate. However, it is not the end-all-be-all for Hawaiian culture. Do your research and connect with the language and people.
10. What comes next?
We want to encourage you to know who you are buying something from. Shop local, support indigenously owned businesses, and keep connected to your community.
If you want to stay connected to Maoli, there's so many ways to get involved! Learn more about our story. Subscribe to our Maoli Life weekly share. Connect with us on Facebook / Instagram. We would love to hear from you.
With your patronage, our business has the opportunity to grow! In the future, we hope to collaborate with community partners, foster the growth of our youth, and continue to positively represent native people in the modern world.
It all starts with you and, therefore, we are grateful for each and every customer. Please continue to shop local and support the entrepreneurship of all native peoples.
Mahalo nui for your continued support. Sending you lots of aloha!
About the Author
🌺 Aloha! ʻO Kaipo koʻu inoa. I am the founder of Maoli! As a kanaka maoli who grew up in Kaʻaʻawa on the North Shore of Oʻahu, I wanted to create a brand for Native Hawaiian people and cultural allies that positively and accurately showcases who we are indigenous people. Because, if I do say so myself, we are pretty great. Maoli is a 100% indigenously owned small business. Mahalo nui for your support.