Makiki - Lower Punchbowl - Tantalus, Hawaii

The History of Bete: Where Traditional Hawaiian Clothing Meets Modern Design April 19, 2016

Makiki - Lower Punchbowl - Tantalus, Honolulu
The History of Bete: Where Traditional Hawaiian Clothing Meets Modern Design, Honolulu, Hawaii

When Elizabeth "Betty-Bete" Manchester founded Bete in Honolulu, HI, in 1959, she had a vision to merge traditional Hawaiian clothing with creativity and originality through one-of-a-kind fashion designs. 

Due to the traditional nature of her product, Elizabeth chose the Hawaiian spelling of her name for her business endeavors and never looked back. Manchester would often visit places of multi-cultural significance, including Bishop Museum, to research different styles of traditional Hawaiian clothing. 

In 1963, she gained a partner for the business in Rene Kubo, who she said, "... arrived on my doorstep, 'dressed to kill' in gloves and hose and hat to interview for a job as assistant." Until Manchester's passing in 1985, Kubo served as her right-hand woman, creating patterns for Manchester's designs. A native of Lahaina, Maui, she helped Manchester create more than 50 styles of original dresses during their partnership. She remained owner of Bete until 1994, when she decided to trade in the company she loved for retirement and travel.

Finding worthy owners to inherit the business didn't prove to be a challenge once current owners Nola and Linda Nahulu showed interest. The two sisters—one a choral conductor and the other a psychiatrist—came by their passion for fashion through their mother, who was a professional dressmaker. Their chief mission was to maintain the integrity and quality of Manchester's designs.

It only took Kubo three days to decide to turn over the company to the sisters. It was later discovered that both Kubo and the Nahulus' mother had graduated from dressmaking school in the same year, cementing the significance of the decision. 

Today, Bete continues to provide customers with traditional Hawaiian clothing, including uniforms and dresses. You can browse designs online or by visiting one of its three locations in Honolulu. For more information, call (808) 591-9449.

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