71 Baldwin Ave., Paia, wingshawaii.com
Grand opening Friday, Nov. 13, 6pm
If ambition could be bottled, the trio of girls behind Wings Hawaii would get it done. In most cases threesomes don’t work—there’s always that third wheel to throw off the balance. Not so for artists Samantha Howard, Melody Torres and Becky Vosh, who have formed a love triangle that achieves harmony against the odds.
Deep respect is a foundation of this trilogy, along with a firm belief in each other’s creativity and drive. After meeting as undergrads at University of Hawaii, they started collaborating on small projects, selling jewelry and hand-sewn clothing to friends. A few years later they settled on Maui.
I met the girls at their studio in Haiku’s Pauwela Cannery. The entry room is a large office space with desks pushed together. Samantha’s jewelry-making area is littered with silver and gold, shells and gems and bits of wax. Upstairs is the screen-printing operation, and draping and cutting tables. This is where the magic happens. Samantha points to their motto and mantra, “She Believed She Could So She Did,” which is painted as a mural on the wall. Each girl has her own strengths—Melody is good with numbers, Becky works on the graphic designs, Samantha has studied jewelry making since college—but in their collaboration they become greater than the sum of their parts. They all put blood, sweat and tears into the studio.
It’s apparent that their jewelry and clothing are inspired by the sea. The girls regularly go beachcombing, gathering shells and lost objects to incorporate into their designs. In their last collection they took this inspiration to the next level, creating three “muses” from an imaginary underwater world. The Wings seahorse girl, the miter shell girl and the mermaid girl were given a sketch and in some cases a screen-print persona, and each given life down the catwalk during the launch of their current line.
The incorporation of shells into jewelry is their signature method; they hunt their shells with sustainability in mind, revering Mother Nature at every step. Working with silver and gold, Samantha creates striking pieces that invoke the ocean with subtle inspiration. Jewelry takes shape through puka shells, sunrise shells, starfish, cones and corals. Each piece celebrates the individuality of that ocean creature. The clasps on the necklaces are hand-created, another signature. The lines on the jewelry are fluid, organic and feminine.
Their newest foray into hand-sewn designs and fabric has allowed them to learn new tricks—and gain more fans. Perhaps the most successful of their three muses was the miter girl. Named for the miter shell, her look inspired a screen-print design you can find on tank tops, and a hand screen-printed fabric that echoes the print pattern of the shell. The miter-patterned fabric takes hours to create in the studio and the end result is a breathtakingly realistic impression.
Wings has caught the eye of musician Paula Fuga, who wears their designs while performing. And the girls support other visual artists—they’re currently displaying unique pieces from a fellow designer.
Wings has executed several design launches, complete with fashion shows and parties replete with era-themed costumes. They gutted and built their own Haiku store, teaching themselves a bit of construction along the way. Now they’re preparing to launch a Paia location, as they move their operation to Baldwin Avenue.
My last chat with the girls finds them working an evening screen-printing push in the studio, flush with the excitement of expansion. They’ve added an assistant team of Robin Brown, Erica Wismar and Blair Ladd, and will be launching a grand opening on Friday.
Even in these uncertain times, the power of three creative spirits has helped this shoestring operation take flight. Maui Time Weekly, Jen Russo