By Nadine Kam
Nadine Kam photos
Nine years and going strong, Fighting Eel founders Rona Bennett, left, and Lan Chung celebrate their second store in Kailua.
Three months after opening their Kailua boutique in mid-November, the onset of the busy holiday season, the women of Fighting Eel finally had time to celebrate the occasion with a grand opening party and fashion show that took place Feb. 25.
Honolulu fans braved the gray weather to make the drive over the Pali for the event, which included a fashion show of spring 2012 styles by Fighting Eel, Baby Eel designs and other lines and accessories carried at the boutique. During the sidewalk runway event, the second generation FE girls, including co-founder Lan Chung's daughter Ava, who stole the show.
Among those in the crowd were LeSportsac director of sales Cindy Eastman and hair guru Paul Brown, who's soon to be FE's neighbor.
Now into their ninth year and going strong, I asked co-founder Lan Chung the secret of their success after we had been talking about other partnerships that have fizzled in much less time, and her reply was, "No drama."
Of course the familiar story is that she and Rona Bennett were working at Agnes b. at Ala Moana Center, where they found they shared similar interests and aims in fashion. They were roomies while getting their fledgling company off the ground, and to this day share similar goals and vision.
Rona said it's to the point where they have a sort of telepathy that few can understand, except for one person they hired, who, if they said, "You know the ...," she'd be like, "Oh yeah, I know."
Not that it's all been smooth sailing, they've had to make some tough production decisions to make over the years, as well as enduring market crashes that led to closing of many boutiques that carried their line. It was a difficult time, but they persevered, and here they are with boutique No. 2, and who knows how many are in their future?
Second generation Fighting Eel clan walk the runway in Baby Eel. Leading the way is Lan's daughter Ava Sky Agor.
From left, Yasmin Dar, Lan Chung and Kerrie Inouye, who manages the Kailua store.
Inside the boutique, with children's swimwear in the foreground.
Yasmin Dar on the runway.
Erica Miguel in Fighting Eel stripes.
Marylea Conrad shows some of her Ki-ele jewelry, including the necklace that appeared in this month's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
Lauren Shigekane, left, after shopping, with sisters Rebecca, center, and Alia Sekban.
Runway stars, from left, Linh Owen's daughter Sophia, Ava Sky Agor, Riley Kaya Lau and Lan's sister Caitlin Chung.
Linh Owen with daughter Zoe before cupcake.
All smiles with cupcake. It's just a matter of time before we see Zoe on the FE runway with her big sister Sophia.
Satay chicken from Maile's Thai Bistro.
Dessert from Let Them Eat Cupcakes.