Our love for Hawai'i and for its culture inspires everything that is Kūlua. Just as Kūlua is an old name for the island of Maui, we also aim to go back and look at the way things used to be done.
Caring for our natural resources and for our people are top priorities in making Kūlua a long-lasting vehicle for change.
The garment industry as we know it wrecks havoc on the environment. Most fabrics are made in developing nations because their environmental laws haven't caught up to the United States' and labor is much more affordable. It's a given that the standard methods in manufacturing used today are not sustainable. They're allowed because, historically, the garment industry is the first industry that a developing nation develops. It is true that the industry brings jobs and money to its people, empowering them to change their lives. But how can we consciously allow the lasting impacts even though they're not in our backyard. It's a huge problem to solve. The core answer is to consume less. While we think this is the best solution, we provide an alternative: Sustainability in our fabrics. Sustainability in our production.
Kūlua sources its fabrics in three different ways. The first is to pick up dead stock - leftover fabrics from other manufacturers - and give it a new life instead of having it end up in landfills. The second is to print new fabrics using sustainable methods and eco-friendly fabrics. The third is reusing vintage fabrics that are still in good condition.
Overall, we like to keep our fiber content as natural as we can because the end of a garment's life is just as important to us as it's beginning - let's be honest with ourselves: eventually our clothes will be discarded and end up in the landfill. When that happens, we'd like to ensure that we do not contribute to the mass of synthetic fibers like polyester that will never biodegrade.
Kūlua produces all of its garments on the island of Maui. We're blessed to have a fun network of excellent seamstresses and we are so privileged and happy to put them to work. Yes, local labor is more expensive, but we absorb some of that extra cost. Plus, in the long term, our economy benefits from putting our seamstresses to work today. They will inspire a new generation of seamstresses and designers, continuing to keep it local and sustainable.
While we aspire to grow our business model, for now, we have to keep it small so that we can ensure that we do it really well. We produce in small batches and often once a style/fabric is gone, we won't be able to produce it again. We think everyone benefits in this way though: you won't show up to your niece's grad party wearing the same dress as someone else and we get to offer a range of fabric choices, always keeping things fresh.