Meet the Shopkeepers: We Are Iconic
Shie and Nate Clark on must-have brands, reaching icon status and their shop’s move to a gorgeous new space in Ward.
PHOTOS: AARON K. YOSHINO
With its chic-yet-easygoing feel, beautifully arranged interior and covetable mix of indie womenswear labels that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the Islands, We Are Iconic is easily one of my favorite local boutiques. On the heels of the shop’s move to its airy new location in Ward’s Anaha building, I talked with owners Nate and Shie Clark about how it all started and what to expect from their new spot.
Shie Clark: Tokyo, Japan
Nate Clark: Foresthill, California
How did you two first meet?
NC: Shie was studying English in Santa Barbara and we met through a mutual friend.
Tell us a little about your backgrounds in fashion/retail.
SC: After a short stint at a financial firm, I decided to go to California to learn English. I attended English school, went through a wardrobe styling and hair/makeup program in L.A. and studied global business and marketing at University of California Santa Barbara. I completed a marketing internship at a cosmetics company based in Montecito. I also worked for a Japanese online company based in L.A. and learned everything that you are not supposed to do in business. Haha.
NC: Mostly customer service and sales at (engineering and electronics company) Robert Bosch.
What was the impetus for opening We Are Iconic?
SC: After we got married, I was searching for a job in Santa Barbara, but there weren’t many choices. Since I’ve always loved fashion, I decided to create my own online boutique based out of our Santa Barbara bedroom that targeted the Japanese market. That was 2006. Those were fun but challenging times when the economy crashed. Then, after nine years of running the online store, I kind of lost my vision for where I was going with the business. So, I wrote down all the ideas I had for what I wanted to do with my business and my life. I had been coming to Hawai‘i since I was a kid and finally decided that I wanted to open a brick-and-mortar shop there. The next thing you know, we moved with our 1-and-a-half-year-old son and started looking for the right spot.
What was the inspiration for the shop name?
NC: Well, we wanted something that was different and so much inspiration revolves around fashion, art and music. We thought that in all of those fields there are iconic figures, such as Yves Saint Laurent, Salvador Dali and Pink Floyd, and that we would strive to become icons in our industry.
How would you describe the We Are Iconic aesthetic?
NC: Timeless, clean, edgy.
How would you describe your owner personal styles?
SC: Mostly boyish but with a feminine touch.
NC: Clean and simple. Nice pants, sneakers and a hat.
If you could only wear one label every day what would it be?
SC: Oh, that’s an easy one for Nate and a challenge for me. That’s so hard as there are a lot of great designers out there, but as of now, I have to say Raquel Allegra. I love all the fabrics she uses and her pieces are so easy to wear, laid-back but sophisticated. Nate’s go-to lately is Acne.
Tell us about your new location.
NC: It’s 1,257 square feet, which is just about 200 square feet bigger than our previous space, but it feels a lot more open because of the high ceilings and because it has a flow that’s very easy to move around in. We went with a mix of exposed concrete and wood with gold and brass finishes that pop against the natural elements for a raw but polished feel.
SC: We’ve been adding new designers in preparation for the expansion. Recently, we added MM6 Maison Margiela, Nili Lotan and Forte Forte. There will also be Maryam Nassir Zadeh and Nanushka to go along with our current brands Rachel Comey, Raquel Allegra, Ulla Johnson and Jesse Kamm. Many of them aren’t available anywhere else on the Island.
What have been the most challenging and rewarding parts of being a small business owner?
SC: Well, for the last four years it has been just Nate and I, so moving forward the challenge is building a really good team. Also, as parents of a 6-year-old son, having a balance with our business and family time is a constant challenge. As for rewards, it’s a combination of things. One, we get to work with so many talented designers—we love getting inspiration from the ones we carry. The other part would be getting to meet amazing customers from all over the world.
What do you love most about your work?
SC: I love every part of it. I do all of the buying and handle the sales too. I get to see the whole process from start to finish.
NC: I’ve always helped out since the start, so when we moved to Hawai‘i it was nice to be able to join full time and really be able to devote all my energy to growing the business with my wife.
We Are Iconic, 1108 Auahi St., Suite 155, (808) 462-4575, shopweareiconic.com.