Bringing French fashion to Waikiki

HONOLULU (KHON2) — From France to Waikiki, this is the path a local businesswoman has taken. While it was a dream come true, it wasn’t exactly a smooth ride.

Tucked away among all the other gorgeous shops on Lewers Street Beachwalk in Waikiki, Coco Mango offers trendy womenswear with a perfect taste of Hawaii and France.

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

Shop owner Stephanie Milin and her husband were no strangers to the islands. Their first trip together was to Hawaii and it is also where they chose to get married.

Chaminand said: “The start was really good. I think the collection is very well tailored to the client, it’s tropical here but not overly crazy.”

He continued, “And French brands are 80%, so we have some Tahitian designers in local designers that we love to work with. Some swimsuits from Brazil and of course some beautiful jewelry from France.

Unfortunately, the store’s initial success was hit head-on by the pandemic that arrived less than a year after it opened for business.

“The biggest challenge is that the company is on US soil, but the owner, because he is not a US citizen, hasn’t been able to get any help from the government,” Chaminand said.

“So we still had to be open to keep the store on the brink of losing its lease, so we have days with no sales. We still had to pay the lease which was quite high,” added Chaminand.

He said they are finally starting to see signs of recovery, particularly from the Asian market.

“But I think it will still be a few months before things get back to a real trend,” he said.

One customer said: “Super comfortable. Super versatile what I love is that you can wear casual, it’s all about the accessories.

For Julie, working at Coco Mango proved to be the perfect solution.

“I wore this brand here when I was little a few years ago, so it brings back some memories,” Chaminand explained.

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

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

Looking to the future, he said the key to success is returning visitors.

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

And until that happens, she said they’ll stick to the aloha spirit, but the distinctive French flair.

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“The personal touch and we take care of people. We want people to feel good about being on vacation. We just want them to have some fun bits and enjoy party night in Waikiki. That’s life? That’s life. Ha ha,” Chaminand expressed.

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