November 6th, 2011 / posted by paularath

Lo looked fabulous at her party! Is she more Mad Men or Paris Chic? Photos by Jerry Mayfield.

Many Riches' designers came up with new styles and everyone wanted to be the first to own them.

Lo Kaimuloa of Riches Kahala is among the most respected – and beloved – retailers in Honolulu

She has an uncanny eye for the up-and-coming and she is willing to take a chance on new designers. Known for her impeccable taste, she also constantly keeps her core customers in mind. But perhaps it is her kindness and generosity of spirit that make Lo so special.

I first met Lo in the Lihue airport more than 20 years ago. She was struggling with huge trunks at the baggage claim and I stopped to help her. I thought she was a model shlepping clothes. She is so gorgeous she no doubt would have been a model if she wasn’t so humble and self-deprecating. But everyone who knows her is aware of her humility and self-deprecation.

Lo’s ability to anticipate trends and identify future stars is both a blessing and a curse. She is often two or three years ahead of everyone else. That means she sometimes brings in designers no one in Hawaii has heard of – yet. Sometimes she has to put the goods on sale before any other retailers have them on their radar. By the time they catch on with other buyers, Lo has moved on to the next big thing.

Necklace in Jose & Maria Barrera's NYC showroom.

Witness: Riches Kahala was ahead of the curve bringing in Kate Spade. For the first year or so that Kate Spade was carried at Riches, no one really “got” those simple, basic boxy bags. Now Kate Spade is, well, iconic. And how about Ippolita? Seen the double-truck ads in national fashion magazines and her counter in Neiman Marcus? Lo had her first!  Ditto Jose and Maria Barrera, seen regularly in editorial spreads in Elle and Vogue. Currently she’s the first in Hawaii to carry StuartStand, the unisex line of bags and small accessories that’s sweeping the nation. Riches had ‘em first.

Here’s my take on what Riches is carrying currently that will be hot and haute in a year or two or three: Hammitt bags. The fabulous line out of L.A. is the go-to bag that becomes your favorite. Not only are Hammitt bags beautiful and made of the most luxurious leathers and linings (would you believe suede linings), they are also imminently functional.

Lo and Riches are perhaps best known for their discovery of outstanding local designers. I have covered dozens of new designers in my stories because Lo introduced me to them. If she likes a designer, and believes in him or her, she is willingly to stick her neck out for them. It doesn’t always work out financially to Riches’ benefit, but Lo is still happy to help. For Lo, it’s never just about the money.

What retailer do you know who retains its staff like Lo does? Kelli Coffin, the store’s incredibly wonderful and able manager, has been with Riches for 16 years. Many of the sales associates have also worked there for many years.That’s because she treats them like daughters. Their relationships go far beyond the professional. Lo truly loves them and they love her.

FROM A FELLOW BUYER

I was delighted to catch Craig Clovis on the phone in his Dallas showroom. Craig met Lo on one of her first buying trips. They have traveled together to buying trips ever since. Their next one will be New York in January.

Here’s Craig’s take on Riches’ 25 years of success:  “Lo knows her customer. She’s good at shopping the market and finding things she likes that are also appropriate for her area and proportionately correct for her customers.

“It’s in her genes. It’s a natural born talent,” Craig said of Lo’s buying ability. “She buys what she likes best but she knows trends. When she believes in something she goes after it 110 percent. Any she treats everyone so wonderful, she’s so sincere, you feel the love she has for you. That’s what it’s all about – relationships with customers and with vendors.”

FROM TWO OF LO’S DISCOVERIES

Misa Hamamoto, local girl who now lives in L.A.

Misa Hamamoto of Misa Jewelry:

“I approached Riches first because it was the only boutique in Hawaii at the time that featured up and coming and different designs.  In Hawaii, it’s so common to see the same, ‘safe’ merchandise throughout the islands, but Riches always took fun risks and carried unique pieces, so it’s no surprise that many flock to it and it’s been successful for 25 years now.  I remember when I first showed Lo my jewelry designs and she said, “Finally! Something different!”  And I immediately responded with, ’Finally! Someone in Hawaii who ‘gets it!’  I think newer boutiques are following Lo Kaimuloa’s approach because it’s an approach that has been working so well for her to this day.

“From the very first day I met with Lo, she has been genuinely sweet and supportive.  I was just starting out when I had my first meeting with her, but she truly believed in my Misa Jewelry line right away and she gave me the confidence that I needed to really pursue my career in jewelry.  She may not know this, but she really gave me so much drive and motivation to pursue boutiques across the country and get me to where my business is today.  And every time I chat with her over the phone or in person, it’s like talking to family – she’s just so easy to talk to, work with and be friends with.  I’m so grateful to have her in my life.

From the Misa Jewelry collection.

“Lo truly has ‘the eye.’  She selects unique merchandise not just for Riches, but she selects pieces that Hawaii craves. Growing up in Hawaii, I know firsthand how hard it is to shop for accessories that stand out from the rest.  Riches always stood out from the chain stores and the local stores all carrying similar merchandise, so I knew it was the perfect home for the unique designs of Misa Jewelry.  In addition, my friends, my friends’ parents, my friends’ grandparents all shop at Riches, so they cater to all ages with their quality, fashionable merchandise.  Lo always took successful risks on up and coming designers and she and her team always provide the most personable shopping experience.  I absolutely love working with the Riches team.  “

 

Necklace by Two Hands

Fay Scherr of Two Hands

“Riches was my first account back in 1992, when I decided to turn my jewelry-making hobby into a business.  I was thrilled and flattered that Lo would give an unknown artist precious window space in her kiosk.  Lo has been such a loyal supporter of Two Hands, and I owe much of my longevity in the business to her.

“Lo has been extremely generous and supportive of local artists, and in the course of 25 years, there must have been countless other fledgling artists who also made their debut at Riches.

“How has Riches managed to thrive for 25 years at Kahala Mall?   Lo has a seemingly effortless sense of great style, a savvy business acumen, and wonderful people skills.  She has a loyal customer base who return year after year because not only does Lo treat them as family, she continues to update her inventory with interesting fashion finds.  The scope of Lo’s merchandise in her tiny kiosk is amazing!

“It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with Lo.  In business, she is fair and easy to work with; and if you can count Lo as a friend, you couldn’t be more fortunate.”

A TRIBUTE FROM A ROBIN ROHR

When Riches first opened 25 years ago, Lo had a partner, Robin Rohr. Robin left Riches and is now a writer and realtor. Here’s what she had to say:

“Lo Kaimuloa is a magic maker of the highest order. In the mercurial world of retail, to have survived and flourished for the last 25 years is remarkable. So many customers over the years have said that it is such fun to shop at Riches. They feel a palpable sense of joy when viewing Lo’s jaw-dropping cutting-edge jewelry and accessories. But there is a bigger story to shopping at Riches. On its opening day, when the store was blessed by Kupuna Nana Veary, she said, “Please conduct your business with the Spirit of Aloha embodied in each and every transaction. That is your real gift to the world” And Lo certainly represents the Aloha Spirit to its depth.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis visited these islands a number of years ago and  she  said,  ‘I hope  the Aloha Spirit  is contagious for it could change the world.’ And Riches in its own special way has contributed over the years to positive change in our community as Lo has used Riches as a platform to spearhead many philanthropic projects. She represents what Hawaii and the Aloha Spiirt is all about….. giving back and making a difference.”

 

Yes, Riches was the first advertiser to step up and support paularath.com. However this story was not solicited or expected in any way. It’s simply the truth and it’s timely to tell it on the occasion of Riches’ 25th anniversary.

– Paula Rath

Lo with Ginger Waters (my sister in law) and me. Lo's husband, Clyde, and my brother, Robbie, are great surfing buddies. It was years before Lo and I realized this!

 

What are they saying?
Leave a comment below.
JennieB
November 8th, 2011 at 12:01 am

It was a great party and great seeing familiar faces. Beautiful display of local artists’ works.

Paula looked like “British Royalty” …… from an observer who met Paula for the first time.

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