Robin Brown, Owner & Designer
Robins Apparel Maui
PO Box 81496 Haiku, HI 96708
How many years experience in the industry?
I have been in the fashion industry for about 7 years. It all started with a basic sewing class, and I was hooked. Figuring out how different pieces all put together make a garment is fascinating to me. Constructing clothing is still my favorite part of the designing process, which is why I make all my clothing by hand rather than having it produced in a sewing house.
How did you get your start in the Fashion Design and retail industry? When was this? Did you have any formal training?
I got my first job in retail working for Wings Hawaii in their store back when it was in the Pauwela cannery. I had been making sun hats in my sewing class, and one of the owners suggested I sell my hats in their store. That was the beginning of Robins Apparel.
Later I joined the Wings sewing team where they were producing womens clothing and swimwear. I learned basic sewing skills as well as production skills. It was the perfect job to get a feel for Maui’s fashion industry. After a few years of sewing for Wings I decided wanted to see what else the fashion world had to offer, so I moved to San Francisco and studied pattern making for womens clothing at Apparel Arts School. Since then I came back to Maui, and have been busy producing my designs.
What is your philosophy of design?
The philosophy behind my designs is simplicity. The elements of my pieces are a clean style with vibrant fabrics and bold prints to add definition. I feel that many designers try too hard for unique designs and loose sight of the beauty in a designs simple form.
Where do you draw your style inspiration from? Who is your favorite style icon?
I have many favorite style icons, it depends on the day and my mood to decide who I admire most. Alfred Shaheen is at the top of my list of admiration. He was a pioneer in printing textiles and manufacturing in Hawaii. His designs for women from the 50’s and 60’s are some of my favorites. I am drawn to the feminine style dresses with the vibrant aloha prints. Another designer I really admire is local artist Shannon Hiramoto of MachineMachine. She has the ability to mix and match different prints of fabric together with Hawaiian influenced designs to make fun garments for the island living.
Most of my inspiration comes from Hawaii, past and present designers as well as the elements that surround me. My signature style is still evolving. I create a lot of open back dresses and tops, I think the back is a beautiful feature on the body and is often overlooked. Also, I leave a lot of raw or unfinished edges on my garments, I like the look of the fabric rolling at the hem and neckline.
Tell me about your collection. What makes your line (and/or retail store) stand out from the crowd?
Eye catching prints and bright colored fabrics make my designs stand out. I use the fabric to compliment the design. My clothing is made of light, natural fabrics for a comfortable wear. I use jersey knit cotton and rayon mostly, it feels great and fits nicely to the figure. Its also easy to wash, which is a big selling point for me.
What are the current trends in your industry?
The hi-lo hemline is a trend I am into right now. It’s flattering in my different figures, and is a fun twist on the hem. I often incorporate it into my skirts and dresses.
What is your favorite piece from your collection?
My favorite piece from my collection is the seamless top. It has the open back, which I love. Its perfect to wear on a hot day or for a night out. I use soft, light fabric so it feels luxurious to wear.
If we took a peek in your closet, what would we see? What is your ‘can’t live without’ item?
My closet is full of dresses and skirts, they look great and they are comfortable to wear everyday. I also have a serious love of shoes, they can bring an ordinary outfit to life. My favorite item in my closet is a pair of cognac colored Frye boots. They have cowgirl meets city girl style, and are completely impractical.
What is the staple clothing item or accessory every woman on Maui should be sure to have?
A staple clothing item for maui is the right dress. One that can be worn casually or be dressed up, so you can be ready for any occasion.
Tell me your top 5 styling tips.
Add a belt to a dress, it compliments your waistline.
Pick ONE area to emphasize, whether is your legs, your back, whatever. Emphasizing too many parts is less attractive.
Less is more when it comes to jewelry.
Biggest fashion no-nos?
Beware of panty lines.