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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 4, 2006

Kahala fashion retailer Nancy Lang, 82

 •  Obituaries

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer

Nancy Lang, who was known for her stylish, but not trendy, women's clothing store at Kahala Mall during the early 1980s, passed away Saturday. She was 82 years old.

A retail leader of her era, Lang was the bridge between the high-end designers found in Neiman Marcus stores and the off-the-rack clothes found at Liberty House, which is now Macy's, said Annie Au, a longtime friend and trustee of the Langs' estate.

Lang, of Kahala, was the widow of Bob Lang, a recording and radio engineer who worked for the "Hawai'i Calls" radio show. Bob Lang died in 2003.

"She dealt in classic clothes that fit any kind of personality or character," said Douglass Smoyer, of Retail Strategies, a retail consulting firm. "She wasn't overly fashionable or tailored, just clothes that people could count on to look well in."

When Lang went on buying trips, she'd often take a list of individual items to have shipped directly to her clients.

"Nancy Lang was like a personal shopper and she maintained a close contact with all her clients," Au said.

"Nancy was a very private person, as was her husband, Bob," said nephew Rick Mitchell. "But that didn't mean they weren't social people."

Nearby resident Anita Bruhl remembered hearing the strains of Hawaiian music floating through the community some 30 years ago during social events at the Langs' home on Koloa Street.

Nancy Lang Couture Boutique was at Kahala Mall at a time when there was a spate of such women's fashion stores as Carol & Mary, Alion, McInerny, Mamo Howell and Jeffrey Barr.

Lang sold the store to Ethel's dress shop in 1991, Au said, at a time when the mall was undergoing a change. In the mid-1990s, the mall management made an effort to attract a younger crowd of shoppers with the addition of stores like Banana Republic, Foot Locker, The Body Shop, Contempo Casuals and Kay-Bee Toys.

Before having her own store, Lang worked as a buyer for Carol & Mary at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and at one time worked at Liberty House, Mitchell said.

"I remember going with her to work at the Royal Hawaiian," Mitchell said. "I'd go to the beach and she'd go to the store."

Smoyer, who has studied retail since 1966, said that Lang was a "straightforward gal with a straightforward store. She couldn't be replaced. She was the only one who knew how she did it."

Lang is survived by 17 nephews and nieces, including Mitchell. There will be no services. Donations can be made to Hospice Hawai'i, or a charity of choice.

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com.