Hawaii by Design – Designs for Living

Good design isn’t limited to buildings or houses. We shopped with this in mind, looking for clever local designers who create things worth sharing your life with.


photo: Alex Viarnes

Pacific Island Lure Innovations

Fishing lures by Pacific Island Lure Innovations, or PILI, have a mystique. Fishing enthusiasts, explains owner Mark Santiago, “bought them in Hawai‘i, then took them home and realized they work just as well in fresh water as they do in salt.” This unusual versatility, coupled with the fact the lures are scarce, means fishermen as far as Mozambique lust after PILIs. The lures ($10 to $30 each) are made of resin and foam. Santiago makes them by hand, but to keep up with demand, plans to move to machine-based production. Some will still be made by hand, and will likely be more of a collector’s item. To order, call (808) 325-7213 or visit www.pililures.com.

photo: courtesy of Melia Conrad

Melia Conrad

Designer Marylea Conrad loves the word melia, or plumeria, so much that she named not only her daughter, but also her clothing line, Melia Conrad. Conrad, who also works as an editor at Ward Magazine, sister publication to HONOLULU, specializes in swimwear. We love the quality fabrics and materials (mother-of-pearl, not plastic), attention to detail (cute ruffles, easy-to-open fasteners) and versatility (straps that easily remove for sunning). Swimsuits run $80 to $120. This beach cover-up dress ($110) is made of hand-washable silk, and would look great for sundown cocktails, too. Her spring line will be available late April/early May at Split Obsession, in Koko Marina Shopping Center; The Butik, on Kapi‘olani Blvd.; Rafael, on Pauahi St.; or online at www.meliaconrad.com.

Aloha Workshop

photo: Alex Viarnes

Graphic artist Mark Swanson moved to O‘ahu to “decompress” after a busy career of drawing background scenes for big-time movies such as An American Tale and The Land Before Time. After spending days on the beach, colors of the Hale‘iwa sunset and the lush North Shore environment found their way into his color palette and eventually onto his canvas. Swanson’s Island-inspired design style comes through in Aloha Workshop, his line of bags. Fun, funky, colorful totes and cosmetic bags ($15 to $45) are available at Strong Current in Hale‘iwa, Hawaiian Moon on the new Waikiki Beachwalk or online at www.alohaworkshop.com.

photo: Alex Viarnes

Cindy Luna

Laurie Baron, co-owner of Nohea Gallery, has shown swirling, woven metal creations by Cindy Luna for the past year. “Her work has such a clean, urban feeling, yet her life is deeply isolated,” Baron says of Luna, a resident of Big Island’s secluded Waipi‘o Valley. “It’s totally unlike anything anyone else is doing,” she says. Nohea Gallery is the only retail outlet for Luna’s designs on O‘ahu. A brass basket will cost you about $80 to $100.

photo: Alex Viarnes

Kimberly Le Designs

You’ve heard of soccer moms; Kimberly Le Designs is run by a very busy soccer/jewelry designer mom. Kimberly Furukawa, the mother of four kids, ages 16 months to 9 years, says she squeezes in time to create her jewelry at night. “And when I am driving, I am creating in my head.” Furukawa says she is inspired by “fashion and elegance.” Her swingy designs conjure up a freewheeling, poetry-writing duchess, using stones such as tourmaline, sapphire, rubies and emeralds. Look for the line at Riches Hawai‘i (and on its site, www.richeshawaii.com), as well as at Chelsea, in Manoa; Reflections, at the Ihilani; Silver Moon, on the North Shore; and Craft Flair and Villa Roma at Ward Warehouse. Prices range from $70 to $1,500. www.kimberlyle.com.

Matthew D’Avella

Matthew D’Avella, a native of Philadelphia, has called Kailua-Kona home for 13 years. The Island life is “more conducive to design,” says the woodworker. After relocating to the Big Island, D’Avella began studying Asian design, specifically Japanese pieces from the Craftsmen’s era. “It was all about skill,” he says. “You knew who built it by how it was done. Their skill was their signature.” In creating this mango wood tansu, D’Avella put his own signature on the traditional piece of furniture. For custom pieces, contact D’Avella at matthew@mdavella.com or (808) 326-5452, or view his portfolio at www.mdavella.com.

photo: courtesy of Matthew D’Avella

photo: Alex Viarnes

Jef Hartsel

“I work in all mediums,” says graphic artist Jef Hartsel. Hartsel is the head of Poetree, a design studio, and his hip work graces everything from T-shirts and surfboards to walls. “Living in Hawai‘i really influences me, because of the natural elements. The beautiful colors, a sunset, a flower, the balance and contrast of everything.” As a former professional skater, Hartsel says he visualizes much of his work in a “dynamic, moving way.” The print shown is $130, framed, at Chinatown Boardroom, 1160 Nu‘uanu Ave., 585-7200. You can also find Hartsel’s work at Split Obsession, in Koko Marina Shopping Center, or visit his site, www.poetreemovement.com.

photos: courtesy of Wings Hawai‘i

Wings Hawai‘i

“A series of really cool coincidences,” has enabled Wings Hawai‘i to spread across the country, says Melody Torres, co-founder of the clothing and jewelry line. A chance meeting at a North Shore farmers’ market founded a relationship with a boutique owner from Cape Cod. A mutual friend at a wedding introduced their partnership with a spa owner in Cancun. Meanwhile, Torres, along with college buddies Samantha Howard, Becky Dosh and Samantha Casas, continue to retail around their home base, Pa‘ia, Maui. “We’re stoked to work together at a job we really enjoy doing,” says Howard. Shop online at www.wingshawaii.com for screen-printed panties ($14), hoodies ($62) and handmade jewelry ($85 to $150). Also check out links to boutiques around the Islands and abroad.

Laulau Woodworks

photo: Alex Viarnes

Aaron Lau’s interest in woodwork began during his childhood, helping his grandfather with fix-up projects around the house. Lau established Laulau Woodworks, crafting custom-designed wooden pens. Using local woods, including macadamia nut, lychee and koa, paired with materials such as turquoise, buckeye and maple, Lau creates each pen by hand in his garage. “I never thought I’d be doing this for a living,” says the self-taught designer. Over the past two years, Lau’s designs have found their way into high-end stores such as Neiman Marcus, boutiques such as Into and even overseas. “It’s amazing to think my pens are going to London, India and Hong Kong,” Lau says. Prices start around $80. Available at Into, 40 N. Hotel St., 536-2211 or visit www.laulauwood.com.

photo: Alex Viarnes

Phuong Tran

“Ni‘ihau shells are very expensive. I wanted to do something [more affordable] with a similar technique, without spoiling the Hawaiian culture,” says Phuong Tran, owner of The Art Treasures Gallery. He designs long “coco-blossom shell,” necklaces, popular for weddings or hula, and has them made by workers he trained in his native Vietnam. The elegant, swaying strands are $75 each. 1136 Nu‘uanu Ave., 536-7789.

photo: courtesy of Konohi Designs

Kinohi Designs

If you’ve flipped through the yellow pages or opened your phone bill, chances are you’re familiar with Jennifer Tanabe’s work. The 14-year veteran of the design industry created the logo for Hawaiian Telcom during her time at local advertising agency Milici Valenti Ng Pack. Tanabe has since expanded her creativity into a small business, Kinohi Designs. Although creating wedding invitations, baby announcements and stationery has become a second full-time job for Tanabe, she doesn’t mind the extra hours. “[My business] serves as a creative outlet. I have some ownership over my designs,” she says. The Kinohi line is available at The Paperie at Kahala Mall and online at www.tinyprints.com or www.weddingpaperdivas.com.

photo: courtesy of IO Sport

IO sport

In a state that averages 76 degrees, the odor-eating, sweat-reducing design behind ‘Iolani Sportswear’s new line was an obvious next step for the local clothing company. After 53 years of designing Hawaiian print lines for men and women, the company enlisted Nick Kawakami, grandson of founder Keiji Kawakami, to reinvent the men’s line. Incorporating performance technologies similar to those used in athletic wear, with a classy, youthful style, the IO Sport line is ideal for young professionals, says Kawakami. Local Macy’s stores carry the men’s sportswear line, featuring collared, woven shirts, graphic tees and polo shirts. Although IO Sport was created as a menswear line, Kawakami says the company will apply the performance technologies to the women’s line as well. Visit www.iolanisportswear.com.

Akane Clothing

“I believe that a clever design aesthetic can be applied to the construction of any object,” says Zana Tsutakawa, the woman behind trendy Akane Clothing. Although clothing is her medium of choice, “I apply the same attention to design and aesthetic when I’m cooking dinner,” she says. She even let design decide where she calls home. “I do not use bright colors in my design because I live in Hawai‘i; I moved to Hawai‘i because I love bright colors.” Tsutakawa’s line is characterized by rich colors and her choice of fabrics. Each piece is created with recycled garments and fabrics, some picked up from local thrift stores. Akane clothing ranges from $50 to $200; Tsutakawa will be releasing a ready-to-wear line, with prices from $20 to $80. Visit www.akaneclothing.com for O‘ahu retail locations. photo: courtesy of Akane Clothing

photo: courtesy of Fishtales


Designers Stormy Havice and Julia Sieber-Tu have brought new light to the ancient Japanese art form of gyotaku, fish printing. Havice designed her first piece in true Japanese fashion, using an actual fish to stamp paint onto a onesie. Several variations down the line, Havice and Sieber-Tu created a more streamlined—and less fishy—approach to produce their children’s clothing line ($5 to $28), Fishtales. The authentic fish print is still used to create the initial image, which is scanned onto a computer. Havice gathers inspiration from living by the water in Kane‘ohe. “My fiancé fishes every day, so it’s a natural part of my life.” Visit www.islandfishtales.com.

photo: courtesy of Alliway


“I’ve always done well in warm-weather states,” muses Allison Kim-Czerniak, owner and designer of Alliway. “Jewelry looks best on exposed skin.” The San Francisco native has a degree in painting. “Color, balance, proportion—all these concepts are incorporated in my jewelry.” She often uses organic materials, such as bamboo and coral, as well as semiprecious stones. Alliway runs in the $40 to $150 price range; a new line, Backstreet, features lower prices. You can find Alliway at Tori Richard, Shasa Emporium and other locations in Hawai‘i, or visit www.alliway.com.