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‘Iolani brand hopes to inspire spirit of giving with new campaign

  • COURTESY PHOTO
                                Noriko Namiki, CEO of YWCA Oahu, looks through a rack of garments at ‘Iolani Inc. Through the new “Aloha for Aloha” campaign, ‘Iolani Inc. will donate one garment to the YWCA’s Dress for Success program for each one sold.

    COURTESY PHOTO

    Noriko Namiki, CEO of YWCA Oahu, looks through a rack of garments at ‘Iolani Inc. Through the new “Aloha for Aloha” campaign, ‘Iolani Inc. will donate one garment to the YWCA’s Dress for Success program for each one sold.

It took only 12 hours for the limited-edition face masks offered as a fundraiser for Iolani Palace to sell out.

And just like that, longtime apparel brand ‘Iolani Inc. was able to donate a little over $50,000 to the historic site. In all, about 4,000 fabric mask sales made of a vintage print reflecting Hawaii’s history were sold, with all proceeds going to the palace.

“When Iolani Palace first announced they were having troubles, we were thinking of ways to help them,” said Alx Kawakami, ‘Iolani director of development. “It was a design we had actually ordered and tweaked, and redid the art for this vintage print that we were using. It just so happened it came in. The timing worked out.”

Inspired by the success of the mask fundraiser, ‘Iolani Inc. recently launched its Aloha for Aloha campaign, a commitment to donate one garment for each one sold in its retail store on Kona Street in Honolulu or online at iolani.com.

The donated ‘Iolani garments will go to two nonprofit programs: YWCA’s Dress for Success and the Institute for Human Services’ Hele2Work, both of which help men and women look their best while entering the workforce.

When the new coronavirus pandemic resulted in store closures in March, ‘Iolani Inc., founded in 1953 by Kawakami’s grandparents, also closed temporarily but kept to its longtime tradition of giving back to the community. The business donated more than 2,000 specially made masks to the Queen’s Medical Center, among other efforts, and offered support to the Henry Kapono Foundation to help unemployed musicians across the state with Foodland gift cards.

“So my grandparents were always about giving back, and my parents, and now me and my wife, want to continue to do that,” said Kawakami, a professional musician in his own right.

In addition to the donation of garments, which has no end date, the Aloha for Aloha campaign will look for ways to help in other areas of need to “keep the aloha going.”

The idea is if someone gives you aloha, you give it right back, according to Kawakami.

“Everything we do, we want to make sure we have that in mind,” he said. “One of the hopes is that other organizations and individuals will look at it and say maybe we’ll do something like that … . It really is anything, just checking on your neighbors, waving hi to someone — it’s a chain reaction.”

Noriko Namiki, CEO of YWCA Oahu, welcomed the campaign. “Having a piece of beautiful clothing can lift up someone’s spirit and confidence,” she said in a statement. “The gifts will surely bring big smiles to the women who come through our doors for help. This is something we cannot afford to do by ourselves and we thank ‘Iolani for their generosity.”

The ‘Iolani retail store is open by appointment, but walk-ins are welcome, with a limited number of customers allowed in at a time for proper social distancing. Online orders may be picked up in store within an hour.

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