Swan Songs

Hanalei Swan may be 11 years old but she’s packed more bags and trotted the globe far beyond the wildest dreams of many adults. Images: Ryerson Anselmo for Costes Portrait. Words: Ondy Sweeting

With 36 countries down and still counting, Hanalei the artist, fashion designer, model and international speaker calls Bali home.

She spreads a positive message of self-love and confidence to other kids and parents through her regular talks and her Instagram page, which has over 46,000 followers.

โ€œI am open to the idea that as a kid I can accomplish many things and through social media I can leave a mark on this world. I post about fashion and me and mom write my posts so they always include a life lesson or an inspiration,โ€ Hanalei says.

The dynamic tween believes that her parents Rhonda and Brian are responsible for her ability to recognise the epic possibilities that life offers the young.

โ€œMost kids are asked what they want to be when they grow up, but I was never asked that. I was asked what I want to do now. This question changed my perspective of what I can do and taught me that I donโ€™t have to wait until I am 20 to become a fashion designer,โ€ she says.

Hanalei admits that being an only child offered her long hours drawing and sketching the beautiful places that she visited.

But it wasnโ€™t until the family arrived in Bali that her design skills became apparent.

โ€œI was discovered by a fashion designer from LA called Karen. We had a power out and went to stay in a hotel. My mom and dad started chatting with Karen and I fell asleep on the sofa in the restaurant. When mom asked Karen what she did for a living in Bali and she said she was a designer, apparently I woke up immediately and said: โ€˜Iโ€™m a designer, too!โ€™

โ€œKaren asked to see my sketch book and said my work was like nothing she had ever seen and that it should be made. It’s how I got started,โ€ she says.

Rhonda and Brian built the Canggu studio as Hanaleiโ€™s creative space and they have five staff producing collections, which will soon be available through TS Stores as well as outlets in the USA and UK.

Hanaleiโ€™s lines include kids’ wear with funky hoodie dresses and boots that are named after Bali dogs, plus the resort collection. She has a fitness and yoga range in development.

The Australian swimwear label Veve want to stock Hanaleiโ€™s resort wear and the child is making customs boots for The Beautiful Girls โ€“ the all-male hipster Australian roots band. She is also designing a piece for the ultra-glam androgynous cross-dresser, Kyle Farmery.

โ€œI want to create more than a company, I want to create a movement. There is a message behind my collection and that is to inspire people to accomplish many things. With the ways of the internet, kids can make money from making a video about toys and billions of people can see it,โ€ she says.

She wants to bring kids interested in fashion and design into her studio to teach them production skills.

โ€œWe can help them with the process of creating a product from the first drawing through to a finished piece.โ€

As an international speaker, Hanalei has learned at the knee of her mother โ€“ a motivational speaker who builds brands and is an international marketing consultant.

โ€œI run events for entrepreneurs through our Unstoppable Family business and within that is Hanaleiโ€™s Unstoppable Kids program. Hanalei devised that program. It teaches kids how to think as entrepreneurs rather than employees and we will develop it to become an online program,โ€ Rhonda says.

Hanalei started speaking at her motherโ€™s events when she was six years old and her talks are based in fashion and art. A personal goal is to deliver a TED Talk.

โ€œWe aim to teach kids how to be their best self and to live their best life possible,โ€ Rhonda says with echoes of Oprah.

Hanalei is home schooled with her business HS Styles acting as her classroom.

โ€œI have the opportunity to show Hanalei the world and to create a business. She learns accounting and payrolI. I love to work with her. Sheโ€™s my favourite client,โ€ says Rhonda.

โ€œI have been to schools in many countries but I feel that I am learning through the real world right now,” Hanalei says. “Iโ€™m doing math through fashion and measuring and handling the real world issues of running a business.โ€ Having been a catalogue model, she now eschews that world in preference of self-discovery.

โ€œI want to know who I am and I need to develop as a human with a message before returning to the industry.โ€ The world awaits.

Visit Hanalei’s website here

Robert Ian Bonnick

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