Honolulu through a local's lens

Jewellery designer Marylea Ablen Conrad grew up collecting shells on Sydney’s beaches but fell in love with the sand across the Pacific. She shares her insider intel on Hawaii.

Jeweller Marylea Ablen Conrad calls Honolulu home
  • Angelica Hannan
  • March 2019

Sun-drenched sandy beaches, the endless blue of the Pacific Ocean and the balmy tropical breezes of Hawaii all create the perfect backdrop for Marylea Ablen Conrad’s work. The mother of two and founder of jewellery label Ki-ele opens in new window gives us an insider’s guide to island life.

What makes Honolulu special?

It’s rich in Hawaiian culture and history and is a fun holiday destination that’s home to both high-end and local brands.

How has the city shaped you?

Coming from a faster-paced city like Sydney, Honolulu has taught me to slow down and enjoy the moment and all that’s around me – from the beauty of nature to the blessings of my family and friends.

What are some iconic spots everyone should visit?

You definitely need to soak up the sun on Lanikai Beach in Kailua – it’s my favourite beach for its white, powdery sand. There’s also Hanauma Bay for snorkelling. Hike up Diamond Head crater for that postcard-perfect photo. And at Kualoa Ranch opens in new window you can ride an ATV [quad bike] and check out the vast landscape where Jurassic Park was filmed.

Where do you go to get inspiration for your designs?

The beach or hiking. We’re surrounded by endless inspiration from nature.

What are the most fulfilling aspects of your work?

Aside from creating my own schedule and having the flexibility to enjoy my family and personal time, I get to do what I love and design what I’m passionate about.

Honolulu's laidback lifestyle is ideal for Marylea's creative pursuits
Honolulu's laidback lifestyle is ideal for Marylea's creative pursuits.

What does it take to be a good designer?

Constant designing, hard work, research and a good understanding of business.

How do the materials you use in your pieces reflect Hawaii?

We use a lot of hand-picked shells and other natural elements, including coral and freshwater pearls – they reflect everything that’s nature and Hawaii. We also use Hawaiian motifs such as the pineapple and hibiscus.

Her trendy jewellery is inspired by the tropical landscapes
Her trendy jewellery is inspired by the tropical landscape.

Who are your style idols?

Christian Lacroix, Valentino, Issey Miyake, Akira Isogawa and Zimmermann.

What are the city’s best places for fashion and shopping?

Ala Moana Shopping Centre opens in new window and the many shops that line Waikiki Beach opens in new window.

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