The Pineapple Clan
I might be one of the last people in Honolulu to get to know Keoni Payton, but that’s the best part about our scene — it really is never-ending.
While I’ve been chipping away at my day job and seeking out the new and the fabulous at night, Payton has built his second lifestyle brand from nothing and raised it with his team to celebrate one year of business in the bustling retail district around Ala Moana Center.
Payton’s artwork is already quite familiar to me, as I see his distinctive tiki pretty much everywhere — at block parties, festivals, concerts (both EDM and reggae) and just about everywhere T-shirts or hats are allowed. His tiki has become iconic and it’s only a year old.
I stopped by his Farmers Market Hawaii's anniversary party earlier this month and was warmly welcomed by their team. You could feel the energy of their "Endless Summer Ali’i" release still present even though the massive crowd of fans that had been waiting in line for hours had already purchased their merchandise and left.
“This is when we get to rage,” musician Kekai Namauu said, draping me in the ʻahuʻula towel that was part of the pack against my will.
I cringed at the thought of wearing the bright yellow and red towel, designed to represent a feather cloak donned by Hawaiian royalty. I didn't want to disrespect the culture. I’m not Hawaiian.
“Please wear it” they said, taking a photo and offering me a drink. Their kind and genuine acceptance of me, an outsider, made a huge impact and really said a lot to me about their brand and way of life.
“This design concept was to incite and educate our rich culture and instill a deeper pride of what Hawaii’s history was about,” Payton wrote on the store’s blog. “If it can spark a conversation and it makes you feel comfortable sharing your personal mo’olelo (story) with a stranger and a friendship can come of it I have accomplished what the inspiration of this design was based on.”
After I got home, I did some reading and found Hawaiians considered the feathered cloaks to have great mana (power) as the birds the feathers came from lived very high in the mountains close to the gods. Those who donned the feather cloaks were of very high status. The best of the best.
I thought about the experience all day and into the evening as I walked around Bishop Museum during the annual Bernice Pauahi Bishop Awards Dinner and found myself standing before an actual ʻahuʻula. It was the same color and design that inspired Payton — only the feathers were real. It was completely breathtaking.
While Payton pleads with supporters not to look at him as a role model, he continues to share his creativity through his words and artwork and has grown a very large and loyal following. He uses his influence to teach; his message is a positive one coming from formidable life experiences and self-reflection. His humble beginnings and dedication have kept everything in perspective. Something from nothing, as they say.
When I asked him what his biggest lesson learned this year was, he said simply, "The day dreamers are still King!"
Good to know.
Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular "Bacardi Pool Party" on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.