Bringing French fashion to Waikiki

In Fashion

HONOLULU (KHON2) — From France to Waikiki, that’s the path a local businesswoman has taken. While it’s been a dream come true, it hasn’t exactly been a smooth journey.

Tucked in between all the other beautiful shops on the Lewers Street Beachwalk in Waikiki, Coco Mango offers up stylish women’s clothing with a perfect taste of Hawaii and France.

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Coco Mango, Julie Chaminand said, “The owners from France in Tahiti. But they came here with the hope of opening a French-inspired store.”

Store owner Stephanie Milin and her husband were no strangers to the islands. Their first trip together was to Hawaii and it’s also the place they chose to get married.

Chaminand said, “The beginning was really good. I believe the collection is very well tailored for the customer here it is tropical but not overly crazy.”

She continued, “And brands from France are 80% then we have some designers from Tahiti in local designers that we love to work with. Some bathing suits from Brazil and of course some beautiful jewelry from France.”

Unfortunately, the store’s early success was hit head-on by the pandemic which came less than a year after they open their doors.

“The biggest challenge is the company is on US soil, but the owner because they’re not a US citizen they were not able to get any help from the government,” said Chaminand.

“So we still had to be open to keep the store in place about to lose the lease so we have days with no sales hand. We still had to pay the lease which was pretty high,” Chaminand added.

She said they’re finally starting to see the signs of recovery, particularly from the Asian market.

“But I think it will take a few more months for things to things to get back into a proper trend,” she said.

A customer said, “Super comfortable. Super versatile what I like about it is you can wear casual, it’s all about accessories.”

For Julie, working at Coco Mango turned out to be the perfect fit.

“I used to wear this brand over here when I was little a few years back, so it kind of brings back some memories,” explained Chaminand.

Julie said she had no intention of working in retail. But the French connection with Stephanie and her husband was undeniable.

Chaminand said, “Actually her husband and I met at the market. Out of the blue, I heard a French accent, and we started to chitchat. One thing led to another, and I started working here.”

Looking to the future, she said the key to success is the return to visitors.

“We just need good tourism to be back. And when I said the tourism, very widespread. Not just from the continent but from Australia and Asia, we just need everybody to come,” she said.

And until that happens, she said they will rely on the aloha spirit, but the distinctive French flair.

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“The personal touch, and we care for people. We want people to feel good because they are on vacation. We just want them to have some fun pieces and enjoy the party night in Waikiki. C’est la vie? C’est la vie. Ha ha,” Chaminand expressed.

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