If you have ever walked into one of the bright and gorgeous Lily Lotus showrooms on the island of Oahu, you may find it hard to believe how it all began. Momi Chee, owner and founder of the boutique and clothing line, had humble beginnings. One quirky T-shirt design was the spark that ignited the 15-year journey to the brand that we know and love today.
Over a decade ago, Momi was studying English and Arts at Santa Clara University. She was also a competitive athlete, and yoga was one of the furthest things from Momi’s mind. Her mom, however, finally convinced her to attend an Ashtanga class. The intensity of the Ashtanga practice immediately appealed to the athlete in Momi. Before long, the positive psychological and healing effects of the practice kept bringing her back to her mat. The seed was planted.
If you remember the era of “Got Milk?” ads, Momi’s first design was a playful spin off that campaign. She utilized the resources available to her at the time to create her inaugural batch of T-shirts featuring a stick figure drawing in a headstand, donning the phrase “Got Yoga?” — upside down, of course. Imagine a young girl selling these homemade T-shirts out of her car, mostly to her yoga classmates. This little seed was definitely starting to sprout.
With the help of a friend-turned-mentor, Momi learned the ins and outs of wholesale, and slowly started to grow her business locally. She persevered as a one-woman operation, working nights, and utilizing her days to foster her business. A major influx of interest in her creations followed the release of her famous blinged-out “om” tops. The jewel-adorned shirts were a hit, and Momi’s vision expanded beyond the island, as orders from the mainland started to pour in.
Then nine years ago, a major opportunity knocked on Momi’s door — she had a chance to buy out the yoga boutique, Off the Mat, in Kaimuki. Momi took a bold leap of faith, quit her night job, and bought the business. The first official Lily Lotus retail space was born.
Yoga is certainly a major influence on the Lily Lotus brand. However, stepping into the cheerful yet serene boutique shows that Lily Lotus is much more. Momi stays committed to her brand slogan, “Clothing for Inspired Living,” in more ways than one. Beyond apparel, her stores feature a wide array of products aligned with the “mindful lifestyle,” such as crystals, local art, essential oils, and energetic jewelry. She also hosts diverse workshops in her space that bring the local community together to foster healthy living, creativity, connection, and growth. With so much that Lily Lotus has to offer, there’s something for everyone — not just for the yoga-inspired.
Momi’s dedication to producing organic, eco-friendly clothing domestically is nothing short of inspirational. With the prevalence of organic food, the purity and quality of food we consume has entered the collective consciousness. It then seems intuitive to Momi, that what we wear on our bodies should be as pure as what we put inside them. Momi reminds us that our skin is our largest organ; why neglect the importance of selecting the most natural fibers available?
Lily Lotus utilizes GMO-free organic cotton processed without harmful chemicals. Bamboo is another staple in the Lily Lotus lifestyle collection. Bamboo is known as a renewable resource that grows rapidly, requires no harsh fertilizers or pesticides, and is naturally hypoallergenic. Its silky texture yields amazingly comfortable clothing — talk about a win-win. Low-impact dyes and soy-based softeners are just a couple of other ways Lily Lotus goes above and beyond the industry norm to offer products that are colorful, beautiful, and sustainable.
Our bodies benefit from Momi’s careful considerations, and so does mother nature. Consumers can feel good knowing that their favorite tank is ultimately biodegradable instead of contributing to the 11 million tons of textile waste that Americans discard every year. Not only are landfills growing, but dyes and chemicals release pollutants into the air, ground, and water system. Momi poignantly compares buying her products to choosing paper or plastic bags at the grocery store; while the function of each may vary, the intention and impact of the choice make a difference.
Momi releases four collections per year, each with a different color schema that is never repeated. Every single garment is individually hand-dyed in Los Angeles by a solar-powered dye house. She emphasizes quality over quantity as a commitment to reducing the risk of overproduction and waste. She points out that the motto should be “reduce, reuse, recycle” in that order. And besides, this “less is more” approach truly gives the customer the sense that the garment they have selected is as special and unique as they are.
Lily Lotus has come a long way from the small seed of one T-shirt, to the thriving business it is today with two showrooms on Oahu, and recognition across the country and abroad. Lily Lotus was most recently recognized as one of the World’s Top 10 Green Yoga Brands in Asia Spa Magazine. It may not be easy to stay calm with this scope of growth and recognition, but Momi juggles it all with natural grace. She likes to think of Lily Lotus as part of her yoga practice — staying fluid and open with each day and every challenge. Don’t miss this lily’s next bloom, as there is bound to be more in store from this conscientious label —and the woman behind it.
Kahala-based yoga instructor of the land, sea (SUP Yoga) and sky (Aerial/Acro Yoga)! Alana received her 200-hour certification in Boulder, Colorado in 2006. Her goal is to create a safe space to dive inward with compassion. Expect moments of challenge, giggles, and sweet surrender. Private, semi-private group, event, and retreat instruction available!