when i first saw our may catalog photos, my eyes were immediately drawn to the amazing floral headpieces on the models. this type of lei is called a haku lei, and they typically have a base of braided leaves into which other plants and flowers are woven, and are worn on the head or around the wrist or ankle. our art director told me that when they were purchasing the leis, the woman making them was very particular about what flowers she used and what they symbolized. in researching them, i read that traditionally you could tell someone’s tribe, family, age, and the circumstance for which the lei was worn – for instance a wedding or special ceremony – just by looking at it.
i’ve been to hawaii once in my life, and i was pretty young, but one thing i remember very clearly is the smell…everywhere we went, the aroma of tropical flowers hung in the air, and the flowers there were unlike any i’d seen in philly. here’s a look at some of the beautiful flowers used in leis and what they symbolize.
leis are traditionally given with a kiss, and should not be taken off in the presence of the giver, as that is considered disrespectful. they should never be thrown away casually or tossed in the trash – if possible, they should be returned to the spot where they were gathered, or returned to nature by hanging in a tree or burying.
haku leis are mostly plant based with flowers mixed in, and one of the most common plants used is the ti plant. the ti leaves have a beautiful mixture of green, purple and pinkish shades and are believed to be good luck.
plumeria flowers are one of the most popular for use in leis and also come in many shades ranging from light purple and hot pink to orange and yellow. the plumeria flower is also a symbol of relationship status – if a female wears one over her right ear, she is seeking a relationship; over the left ear means she is taken.
the unique ohia blossom is actually a species of flowering evergreen tree native to hawaii and can be red or orange in color. it is believed to be sacred to pele, the hawaiian goddess of the volcano, as well as laka, the goddess of hula.
the hawaiian ginger flower has an alluringly sweet and delicate fragrance – leis made with ginger are often made during the day and worn that night, and thought of as an evening lei symbolic of love and romance. the perfect flower for a lei worn by our “ginger” girl!
the pua ilima flower is the official flower of oahu, and so is commonly used in leis on that island (where our catalog was shot). they are also thought to be a symbol of love.
these are known as “cigar flowers” for their tubular shape and the bit of white at the tip that looks like ash. they make extraordinary leis often reserved for special occasions – and if refrigerated, they can last up to a month.
orchids are often used in leis where their green, white and purple petals are woven in a stunning spiral pattern. orchid leis are often given as a thank you or to visitors as a welcoming gesture.