Working for several years from their lofty perch on Hotel Street, Fighting Eel designers Lan Chung and Rona Bennett had two problems on their hands: lack of space and the man challenge. That is, what to do with all the boyfriends/husbands who showed up at FE Headquarters with their girlfriends/wives, rushing their shopping because they were bored.
A single move solved both problems. The new Fighting Eel boutique celebrated its grand opening Sept. 17 at 1133 Bethel St., giving the designers some room to breathe, plus room to share some of their favorite jewelry and accessory finds to complement the dresses and separates they’ve been designing since 2003.
The Hotel Street headquarters started as a workspace and showroom with a handful of seasonal sample and overstock sales, but over time the retail racks were crowding them out.
Their workspace is now in a building separate from the glossy retail operation, and with so much room to spare in the space formerly occupied by Mix Mix, they were also able to divide it and open a brother boutique next door. The Tee Tee Bar offers up graphic tees for men, women and children, although the bulk of the T-shirts are geared toward guys.
NEW FIGHTING EEL BOUTIQUE
» Address: 1133 Bethel St.
The mix includes the kitschy and humorous, with a few surf-and-skate-inspired shirts, but because those already tend to dominate Hawaii’s landscape, they’ve made a push for artist-driven, indie brands such as Critical Slide Society, The Solitary Arts and Freedom Artists, which share shelf space with Hawaii brands such as Organik and Mi Cielo.
Many of the companies produce shirts only in limited edition so, Bennett said, "We have to beg to get some."
Even so, shirts are reasonably priced, starting at about $24.
So far so good. Traffic to Fighting Eel has given a big push to their T-shirt venture.
"Guys have been coming with their girlfriends so we just send ’em over," Chung said.
"Just the other day, a mom came with her sons and said, ‘There’s a sofa for you guys,’ but we said, ‘You can go next door,’ " Bennett said.
With new T-shirt shipments arriving every other week, the Tee Tee Bar already has its own regulars stopping in to see what’s new.
"We don’t usually re-order because these companies come out with new shirts every month," Bennett said.
Fighting Eel is also starting to see a new clientele. The visible location has been a beacon to the downtown office-worker crowd who never dared to venture into the second-floor Hotel Street location.
"Our other place was kind of a secret," Bennett said, with all the cool-kid status that entails. That was made clear to them when one of their clients said she had been thinking about bringing one of her friends to the old headquarters until her daughter warned her, "She’s not worthy of knowing."
Consider yourselves worthy.