Shopping Tours Of Kailua, Chinatown Taking Off

About a year ago, Shell Barrett was strolling through Kailua when she noticed a young woman wandering around lost, futilely trying to follow directions on a map. Barrett asked if she needed help, and the woman responded that she was looking for a popular area boutique.

As Barrett helped this woman find her way, that proverbial light bulb went off in her head: A shopping tour that includes various stops would help visitors avoid situations like this.

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Shell Barrett PHOTO COURTESY SHELL BARRETT

So last fall Barrett launched Hawaii Fashion Tour, which offers a guided shopping experience through shops in Kailua and Chinatown.

In selecting stops for the tour, Barrett focused on choosing a group of one-of-a-kind, independent boutiques, in order to give customers a chance to experience original local shopping destinations. She also sought out stores that feature island-made or island-inspired products.

“Fashion is really starting to make a mark here in Hawaii,” she says. “There are so many emerging designers here, with such beautiful products that represent Hawaii in its own special way.

“People come to Hawaii to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and getting to find one-of-a-kind products would only enhance their stay here,” she adds.

The tour provides transportation to and from five pick-up locations in Waikiki. From there, a van takes them to Kailua, where they visit Muumuu Heaven, which repurposes vintage aloha wear, T-shirt shop Wimini, and boutiques Flower Child, Olive and its affiliated men’s line Oliver.

Then it’s into Chinatown for visits to jewelry shop Ginger 13, vintage-meets-modern clothing boutique Roberta Oaks and handmade crafter Owens and Co.

At each location, guests are given a 10-15 percent discount off their entire purchase — an offering that is exclusive for Hawaii Fashion Tour.

Along the way, Barrett also can assist with any styling needs. Fashion, after all, is Barrett’s passion. Although Hawaii Fashion Tour is brand new, in many ways, it’s been in the works for years.

“I always loved dressing up as a little girl,” recalls Barrett.

In her teens, Barrett loved to sew vintage dresses to wear to school dances. As an adult, after earning a business degree, she attended Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising to study fashion design.

Other than providing an authentic shopping experience for her guests, Barrett was inspired to start Hawaii Fashion Tour as a way to support these local designers and bring them business. During the drive on the tour, Barrett tells guests about each stop — giving an overview of its history, the designer and products. On the Hawaii Fashion Tour website, Barrett maintains a blog, where she writes updates on the various designers she works with.

“I believe in their products and what they are doing,” Barrett says. “It’s like original artwork to me — and getting to be a part of that is really exciting. So I’d like to help promote them and highlight them to people who might not otherwise have known that shop was there.

“You can’t go anywhere else and find these stores, or these products — it’s exciting,” Barrett adds.

Hawaii Fashion Tour costs $89 per person, which includes transportation, store discounts and a shopping tote. Pick up begins at 9 a.m., and drop-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. To book a tour, call 1-800-979-3370. For private tours, call 699-9191. For more information, visit hawaiifashiontour.com.

coconnor@midweek.com