DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Brielle Birkholm, left, and her sister Katrina Birkholm wear gold holiday dresses from Fighting Eel, which will be among the clothing and accessory lines featured at The Butik, opening Wednesday outside the Public Storage complex on Kapiolani Boulevard. CLICK FOR LARGE
Workin' it 24/7
The Butik boutique is the latest project for Fighting Eel's Lan Chung
IF SHE keeps up her usual work pace, Lan Chung's daily calendar might start like this:
7 a.m. -- Breakfast with Rona (as in Bennett, her partner in the island-born clothing line Fighting Eel)
8 a.m. -- Start a new business.
As if Chung isn't kept busy enough expanding Fighting Eel's presence beyond the 150 or so boutiques that currently carry their free-spirited garments nationwide, she'll be launching a new venture Nov. 22. That's opening day for The Butik, a new clothing boutique to be run with the help from a friend-from-grade-school days, Landy Cheung.
Such is the order of life, I guess. Chung met Bennett first, after all, in the second grade at Jefferson Elementary School. It wasn't until fourth grade that Cheung entered the picture. Somehow, in a bit of fashion synchronicity, all of them ended up working at the Agnés b. store at Ala Moana Center as adults.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Butik owners Landy Cheung, left, and Lan Chung. CLICK FOR LARGE
4 to 8 p.m. Nov. 22
1067 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite A3
There will be drawings for gift certificates, Fighting Eel giveaways and 25 percent discounts on purchases.
"Even then, Lan and I were talking about opening a store," said Cheung. "She was already my own personal shopper. Every time she traveled she would bring me back clothes."
"At first we were talking about opening an accessories store," Chung said. "We thought we'd just get a small kiosk at Ala Moana Center, but then we'd get carried away and say we want clothing too, and if we're carrying clothing, we want bikinis, and if we have all of that we need to have shoes too."
It took the friends a year to find the right space, which they found in the new Public Storage building (formerly the Kodak Building) on Kapiolani Boulevard. But because the space is new, the interior required 100 percent finishing. As of last Thursday, it still looked like a concrete construction site, full of rubble and gray dust, hardly the stuff of fashion.
IN THE division of labor, Chung handles the fashion end and day-to-day management will fall to Cheung.
"It's a big project and I've had to deal with construction," said Cheung, who admits it's been hard dealing with such ungirly concerns as circuit breakers. "I have the headache part, but I'm learning so much."
All the messy work will likely be forgotten by opening day, when, all going well, patrons will find a part-industrial, part-island aesthetic in place, with a concrete floor, color-splashed walls and bamboo racks fashioned by hand and suspended from the ceiling.
On the racks will be 12 lines to start, including Mara Hoffman, Bailey 44, 12th Street by Cynthia Vincent, Aoyama Itchome, Who Cares by Alisha Levine, Michelle Jonas and Alice & Trixie, with garments priced from $40 to $300.
"We wanted to carry a good mix so there's something for everyone, and I think we're bringing in designers that other boutiques aren't carrying," Chung said.
The last part is important, given that in this small town Chung has a good relationship with other boutique owners who carry Fighting Eel designs, and she doesn't want to compete with them.
"There's a lot of new boutiques but I think they all have their own following, so there's room for everyone," said Chung, who applies Fighting Eel's philosophy to her Butik buying habits.
"We like to keep up with the trends because we're trying to make clothes we'd want to wear, but we don't want to make our clothes too trendy," she said. "We want to make things you can keep longer, without looking dated when you wear it.
"For Fighting Eel we make what we like. I just have to be careful when I'm buying. It's always in my head that not everybody will like what I like."
"I think we balance each other, because her style is sexier and mine is more conservative," said Cheung.
Of course, Fighting Eel will be part of The Butik's mix, though Chung hints, "This is not to say there won't be a Fighting Eel store one day."