Manutea Nui E

Beautiful, Affordable, and Authentic Polynesian Costumes
by Local Designer, Joey Kehaunani Dang


There’s something truly special about the Polynesian skirt worn for hula dancing and it’s more than just the swish and sway of it. 

There are many different and distinct kinds, says professional costume designer, Joey Kehaunani Dang, and the one we all know and love is the original grass skirt that in Hawaii is called a Hau, while in Tahiti, a More’.  The Hau skirt is made by hand from the shredded bark of the hibiscus tree that has been soaked in the ocean for up to four weeks to achieve a desired suppleness.  This softer, shredded bark is then dried and strung for wear.

Likewise there is a luscious, handmade green leaf skirt that is strung with as many as 50 fresh leaves of Hawaii’s native Ti plant.  So too, there are skirts made of colorful fabrics and a cloth called tapa that is made from tree bark.

The differences between these skirts and the unique processes required are something Joey -- as owner of Manutea Nui E, an authentic Hawaiian and Tahitian costume design company -- often finds herself educating a lot of visitors about. 

“It’s very rewarding to share my culture in a way they wouldn’t have known,” she says.  “It’s pretty cool.  But people who are part of a halau (house of hula instruction) or are in the pageants (for example the Merrie Monarch) get it.  They were born learning to make their own costumes.”

Rewarding as well for Joey is meeting new friends who weren’t taught early on and fulfilling their costume and accessory needs for wherever they live, be it Japan, Australia, Canada, the mainland, or abroad.

“We ship worldwide and we do just about everything right here on Maui,” she adds. “I research my designs and come up with ideas and shapes that I enjoy.  It makes it fun.”

A look at the company’s web site at confirms a list of services and products.  They include: Polynesian entertainment, hula and Tahitian dance lessons, full costumes, and all the necessary accoutrements, from lei po’o (worn on the head), kupe’e (worn around a bun of hair), hip hei, woven lauhala belts, flower and feather hair clips and hair pieces, headdresses, and even custom Tahitian bras made of all kinds of shells, flowers, coconuts, and fabric.  She sells hula dance implements, too, such as Ipu (gourds), Uli Uli (feathered shakers), and Pu ili (bamboo sticks).

But the list doesn’t end there for she, her husband and members of her ohana also perform at weddings, torch lightings, lei greetings, Hawaiian blessing ceremonies, canoe processions and more.

Opened since 2007, Manutea Nui E is a one-stop, full service company with outlet connections island wide.  On Maui’s West Side, Joey’s designs have been handled by Diana Wallace, owner of Breana’s Polynesian Clothing and Gifts, located at 910 Honoapiilani Highway near The Sugar Cane Train’s main depot in Lahaina.  (808)-667-9210.

Specializing in Samoan, Tongan, Hawaiian, and Tahitian wear as well as representing local artists and selling Polynesian gift items, Diana says that on those occasions when she has worked with Joey, it’s been nice and the fact that Joey hand makes most of her inventory means her products are all the more precious. 

“That’s a good thing,” Diana says.  “We have a lot of tourists on this side who buy from here (my store) and are in halaus on the mainland.  Working with Joey has been a good experience.  You can order and pick up her things here or order from her online.” 

To give the West Maui Book Club’s perspective -- since meeting Joey, I have also had a pleasant time and have seen her exceptional work firsthand, so I highly recommend her services.  I’m sure that if you need a partial or complete Polynesian costume for yourself or your halau or if you need her extensive performance services, Joey and her company, Manutea Nui E, can help.

On top of that, her outfits are authentic and deeply influenced by her native culture.  They are truly a reflection of someone who was born into making costumes early on and they leave me convinced that she has the swish and sway you might be seeking.

Manutea Nui E is located at 2865 W. Lelehuna Place in Ha’iku, Maui, Hawaii.  To call toll free: (866)-558-3036 or locally: (808)-870-3513.  E-mail: and Web Site:

Submitted by Elaine Gallant