This past summer, Hawaii faced an unprecedented crisis as raging wildfires consumed its lush landscapes and threatened its communities. The picturesque landscapes that had long captured the world’s imagination became the backdrop of a nightmare that began on August 8, 2023. Raging wildfires, fueled by a confluence of unfortunate events, put the very essence of this tropical paradise to the test.
The story of Hawaii’s 2023 wildfires is one of tragedy, borne from a series of unfortunate events. Unusually hot and dry conditions, exacerbated by climate change, set the stage for an inferno. Strong winds fanned the flames, spreading the destruction far and wide. Hawaii’s unique ecosystems, teeming with life, were under siege as fires raged across multiple islands, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. The Big Island, Maui, Oahu, and Kauai were all affected. In a cruel twist of fate, some of the most iconic and beloved spots, such as the Haleakalā National Park and the lush forests of the Hamakua Coast, bore the brunt of the blaze.
As the islands grappled with the devastating aftermath, a surprising source of support emerged – the fashion industry. In the face of Hawaii’s catastrophe, several prominent brands and designers stepped up to make a difference. They recognized that fashion isn’t just about clothes but also about the communities and environments that inspire their creativity.
Known for their commitment to environmental causes, Patagonia was among the first fashion brands to respond to the Maui wildfires. The company pledged a substantial donation to the relief efforts and encouraged their customers to contribute as well. Patagonia’s dedication to preserving our planet goes hand in hand with their commitment to aiding communities affected by natural disasters.
Kate Williams, CEO of 1% for the Planet, Patagonia’s global movement, issued a statement on August 11, urging the fashion industry to see the wildfires as a wakeup call. “This has been a summer full of signals that climate change is not a future threat, it’s now; it’s heart wrenching as we see the devastation of ecosystems and communities all around us. We are leaning into our community of action as a way to both support each other and keep working toward a healthier future.”
Tommy Bahama, a brand synonymous with island living, took a more commercial approach with their special “Aloha for Hawaii” collection and a percentage of the proceeds donated to wildfire relief organizations. This initiative raised funds and spread a message support, however, one can’t help but think that the brand was also capitalizing on the tragedy.
Alo Yoga, a brand recognized for its stylish activewear, launched a unique campaign to contribute to the cause. They organized outdoor yoga events in Hawaii, with all proceeds from ticket sales and merchandise going directly to wildfire relief. This initiative blended fitness, mindfulness, and philanthropy.
PrAna, an eco-conscious fashion brand, partnered with local artisans in Hawaii to create a limited edition “Hawaii Strong” collection. The collection featured clothing and accessories inspired by Hawaiian culture, and like Tommy Bahama, a portion of the profits were donated to wildfire relief.
Tori Richard, a brand known for its vibrant Hawaiian prints, designed a special collection titled “Island Vibes for Hawaii.” Proceeds from this collection were used to support local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation efforts in addition to wildfire relief. Tori Richard’s dedication to preserving Hawaii’s unique flora and fauna was evident in this thoughtful initiative.
Billabong, a brand deeply rooted in surf culture, organized “Surf for Hawaii” events at popular Hawaiian beaches. These events brought together surf enthusiasts and raised funds for wildfire relief through sponsorships and donations. Billabong’s dedication to their oceanic roots resonated with the Hawaiian community.
Ryan Ringholz, founder and CEO of Honolulu-based footwear brand Plae, received personal requests for help in providing slippers or shoes to survivors of the Maui fires. Through a neighbor he was told that “busloads of people are coming in with nothing on their feet,” at Maui hospitals and shelters. Not only did Plae provide shoes for survivors who lost everything, but on Aug. 11, the brand announced in Footwear News that it would match any customer donations of Plae Rewards points with all proceeds going directly to the Hawaiian Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund.
Footwear brand OluKai also focused on the crisis by donating 100 percent of their August 9th website and store sales to emergency and relief efforts. The brand’s charity, the Ama OluKai Foundation, is now focusing its donations on Maui (OluKai matched the first $200,000 in gifts to the foundation).
Skechers lost their Maui store due to the wildfires. On August 12th, the brand announced that it donated $250,000 to the Maui Strong Fund to support the recovery of affected communities. They also distributed approximately 20,000 pairs of footwear and 20,000 pieces of apparel, in addition to backpacks and socks.
As part of the global fashion community, UoF is proud to announce their donation to Hawaii Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund . If you haven’t done so already, please consider making a donation. Other organizations to consider donating to include: Americares, Maui United Way, ‘Āina Momona and/or visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS (800-733-2767), or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.