Article Originally Published on Ward Village
Aly Ishikuni, although little and squeeze-worthy, is a mighty force with ever-deepening roots like the hala tree expanding into the surrounding Hawaiian soil. Some know her as a pop star, others as a fashion guru. Most, however, know her as the curator and visionary for Art + Flea, a monthly market with local food and fashion vendors. Some might even refer to her roots as her children, with Aly as the mighty trunk—the support, the life, the mother tree.
At the end of this month, she is taking another role (or adding another root), this one as the owner and founder of Mori, a brick-and-mortar shop opening in Ward Village. Translated from Aly’s first language, Japanese, Mori means “forest.” The name is reflective of the shop’s inspiration, Art + Flea, which fosters and shelters those who have the potential to grow into an array of rooted local artisans and companies. The monthly market, held in the warehouses next to Ward Entertainment Center, draws an eclectic mix of art, music, and fashion vendors. The event was birthed in 2010 as Aly’s senior project while at University of Hawaii at Manoa. Within a year, Art + Flea grew from its embryonic state to “Best Monthly Event,” as voted by Honolulu Magazine. Today, Art + Flea counts more than 700 vendors in its rotating list and has expanded to include markets in Waikiki and Mililani.
Expanding upon Art + Flea yet again, Mori will be a permanent shop featuring vendors’ wares, as well as a creative hub for artists and entrepreneurs in Hawaii with workshops for small business owners to hone their craft and growing their business. “We believe the future of business in Hawaii is within our vendor roster,” says Aly.
Mori’s opening day is on Small Business Saturday, November 29. To mark the date, Aly and Art + Flea partnered with HiFi for the event Outfit, taking place in front of Mori from 8 a.m. until noon alongside the Kakaako Farmers’ Market, during which there will be live music and fashion festivities. Then from noon to 4 p.m., Mori’s grand opening will take place. Queen T’s Cakery will serve specialty cakes, and Aloha Pops will have special “Aly” flavors, such as a pumpkin spice crunch (nutty brittle inside of a pumpkin shell). Other vendors include pop-up nail-art salon Glossy Art, streetwear-inspired children’s clothing brand Big Bad Wolf, Pow Wow Hawaii, Mood Collective, Mistprint, and Topia Clothing. An installation by visual artist Kamran Samimi will hang from the ceiling, made of incredible cubes that move and transform. Everything in the store will be available for purchase, and the store will be open until 9 p.m.
Aly, along with her indispensible right-hand man Pete Ulatan, never once mention the sacrifices they’ve had to make to set up Mori and maintain Art + Flea, nor the monetary outlook of this venture. When asked why, Aly responds, “Because it’s worth it to see these businesses grow and to see the difference in the economy and within our community. We’re an event for creatives by creatives. We do all the designs, the logos, the branding, the set-up, the break down, the cleaning, the painting. We do it all ourselves, but it’s worth it. Look at where we are today.”
Mori opens November 29 and is located at Ward Warehouse in Ward Village at 1050 Ala Moana Blvd.
Images by Jeff Villamin