HILO, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - A year after wowing the Merrie Monarch crowd during his first-time on the festival stage, Kumu Hula Kenneth "Aloha" Victor of Kala'akeakauikawekiu is back in Hilo with another debut — this time, a clothing line.
Victor says he was inspired to start his own clothing line, Kaulua'e Hawai'i, as an option for for his own dancers and their families.
"Our designs are made in Hawai'i, for Hawai'i," said Victor, whose prints pay tribute to his grandmother's favorite flower, ke kiele (gardenia), or to raising awareness for the need to educate people about Rapid 'Ohia Death.
One of his most popular prints, ka nupepa, features headlines taken from over 30 Hawaiian newspapers — dating from as early as 1812.
During the 54th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival, Victor's Halau Kala'akeakauikawekiu took the stage during Ho'ike with a showcase that featured a 1950s tour of Kailua-Kona through the mele and dances of the people and sacred places they call home on the west side of Hawai'i Island.
Victor's kaikamahine (young female dancers) have been longtime competitors at the Queen Lili'uokalani Keiki Hula Competition each summer on O'ahu. Yet, last year marked the first time Victor's dancers performed on the Merrie Monarch stage.
However, it was not Victor's first experience with the internationally-acclaimed competition. He once danced under the direction of Kumu Hula Nani Lim Yap and was a long-time stylist for Na Lei 'O Kaholoku and other halau.
Victor is one of approximately 200 vendors who has been invited to showcase his debut fashion collection at the Merrie Monarch Hawaiian Arts Fair.
The fair is one of the biggest draws of the Merrie Monarch Festival week in Hilo. The highly-anticipated event runs from Wednesday through Saturday at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium and Butler Building behind the Edith Kanaka'ole Stadium where the hula competition takes place.