Samantha Howard, Designer
Wings Hawai’i Flagship Store & Wings Hawai’i Designs
[formerly 71 Baldwin Ave]
69 Hana Hwy, Paia, HI 96779
Facebook: Wings Hawaii
Pinterest: Wings Hawaii
How many years experience in the industry?
How did you get your start in the Fashion Design and retail industry? When was this? Did you have any formal training?
Drive. After graduation from UHM feeling the need to continue with what I was already doing and feeling the need for a fashion surge in Hawaii. There were very few boutiques on Oahu at that time, so this filled a niche for what we weren’t able to get our hands on while we were in school. I graduated UH in 2004.
How did you manage to launch your own fashion line?
Dilligence, always doing craft fairs, boutique sales at stores and houses and trying every avenue to get the work out in the world. Talked my two friends into partnering up and going full swing, we eventually opened a showroom/workshop at the Pauwela Cannery which lead to the opening of our production studio and the storefront in Paia.
What is your philosophy of design?
As long as it’s comfortable and looks good, wear it.
Where do you draw your style inspiration from? Who is your favorite style icon?
My mom and my grandmother are major inspirations. My mom used to sew our clothes when we were kids, and taught me how to sew. I’ve been making my own clothes and jewelry since I can remember. My grandmother as a style icon, she was so sleek and classy. I aspire to find that quality in every outfit. She was so well put together.
What are the current trends in your industry?
Lace and crochet. They seem to be two of my favorite things that i always want to use, and it turns out that i am right on trend.
What are your top 5 hot trends for the upcoming Summer and Fall seasons?
Lace. I think that the lace will continue through the fall. I love bright clean whites with denims of all kinds.
Colorful accents. I like the addition of colorful beads for the summer. Seed beads in every shade against the crisp whites says summer all the way to me.
Rock n roll. Always a standard in my book. Classic tees and ripped jeans are staples this summer.
Flannels. Add a touch of lace and it’s suddenly the perfect jacket with anything from a t-shirt and jeans to a summer dress. The less it matches the better.
Leather. leather accessories are always in fashion. This summer don’t be afraid to let your wild side out. Find some fringe.
What is your signature style?
I’ve been told it should be called Beach Boho. But I think that rock n roll needs to mix in there somewhere too. My standard is jeans, white v-neck and a flannel or chambray shirt with it. I love to accessorize, so thats where I get to add in a beautiful necklace or wrist full of bangles. Can’t forget the rings. I have been know to have at least one on each finger if we are going out somewhere fun!
Tell me about your collection. What makes your line (and/or retail store) stand out from the crowd?
Our retail store carries all goods that have been made in the islands. We work really hard at creating from scratch several of the lines that we carry from jewelry to clothes, to purses and bikinis. But we also carry a number of lines designed and created by other local designers and inspirations. All of the goods in our store have a connection to the islands.
What is your favorite piece from your collection?
Currently my favorite piece in the collection is the Patchwork lace long sleeve shirt. It is comprised of a series of vintage doilies, laces and crochet pieces with a sweater knit back and side panels. It is a loose and sexy fit that will be applicable to your wardrobe year round. Easy to dress up, but able to be great for a casual night out or evening barbeque…if you want to be the best dressed person there!
Please tell me about the textiles you use in your designs. Any specific fabrics and colors that you love to work with?
I find myself drawn to white on a regular basis, we even sew a lot of garments in white and dye them after. Often times tea dying is one of my favorites as it gives an antiqued vintage feel. Most importantly, texture plays a major role in fabric choices. Our clothes are about feeling comfortable while you look great. Organic cotton knits are a go-to in the Wings Hawai’i studio.
Do your designs feature upcycled textiles? Tell me about how you obtain them and your process.
We upcycle goods all of the time. I was making myself dresses out of my moms old shower curtains and table cloths when I was a teenager. They were free and beautiful, and way better than anything I found at the fabric store. Now we still implement tablecloths, tea towels and other vintage amazingness in the Handsewn line.
Some pieces are obtained from family members. I have lace from almost everyone I knows grandmother’s or auntie. I love that friends like to bring things that their families have made- but it does make it twice as hard to use them. In addition, we always make our way into thrift stores here and when we go to the mainland and collecting them can be like shell hunting, always looking for the next great one. Ebay can be an easy resource if no mainland trips are coming up, but this can be dangerous…
Do you ever work with vintage fashions? with vintage are you refashioning those styles? Why work with vintage?
Vintage stuff that we work with comes in a few varieties. We source vintage flannels or plaid shirts. The older they are the softer and thinner they are. We add lace elements and sometimes pleats to bring out a more feminine approach to this otherwise masculine article of clothing.
What clothing/accessory lines do you carry in your store?
Wings Hawai’i jewelry, Littlest Birds Jewelry, Aloha Kissed Jewelry, Gypsy Feet Gems Jewelry, Rock Studdy Purses, Honi Honi Swimwear, ARIE Bikinis, Box-11, Robin’s Apparel, Machine Machine Clothing, Jana Lam Purses, Mitusa, Sensi Bikinis, Kai Place Men’s Wear
If we took a peek in your closet, what would we see? What is your ‘can’t live without’ item?
Can’t live without my Longsleeve Chambray Shirt. I have three. or four. and I want another.
What is the staple clothing item or accessory every woman on Maui should be sure to have?
Wings Hawai’i Paia Mini. We make these mini skirts specifically cause Maui is soooo windy, and we love to wear short skirts. They are two layers of stretchy jersey knit cotton with a fold overable waistband. (I like to wear mine unfolded). The thickness keeps a little for the imagination and its cut stays close to the body. They are perfect for the Maui lifestlyle, you won’t show anyone your chonies when a gust comes your way, you can wear them at the beach if you need a bum cover, and they are adorable with a loose tee or tank and your slippers.
Tell me your top 5 styling tips.
Buy Clothing that fits you no matter what the size tag says.
Biggest fashion no-nos?
Wearing clothes that don’t fit.
Dressing “too young” for your age…its true, there are somethings that should only be excused if you’re in your early twenties. Mostly because you don’t any know better yet.
About Jen Russo
I write lifestyle and culinary columns for MauiTime. I love being a Maui girl and adore my big family. Dedicated food taster, blogger, internet fanatic, and Maui and Hawaii specialist.