Friday Town Parties wouldn’t have got their wings without the enthusiasm and marketing from Maui Thing, which moved in on the Market Street scene just five years ago. These days every town on Maui seems to want a Friday night party and Maui Thing is setting the trends in the Maui fashion scene.
This Friday, Wailuku will light up with Maui Thing’s annual summertime birthday block party featuring a secret band and a highly anticipated fashion show. MauiTime tracked the busy bees behind the brand–owner Saedene Ota and marketing manager Ashley Takitani–for a chat about what keeps Maui Thing stuck on good.
MAUITIME: Maui Thing’s stage has rocked Wailuku First Friday. What are some of the highlights from the past five years?
MAUI THING: We are blessed to have had such great local artists play music for Wailuku…Uncle Willie K., Kaumakaiva Kanakaole, Amy Hanaiali‘i, Kimie Miner, Justin Young to name a few.
MAUITIME: The Maui Thing window display is always a pleasure to look at. Who designs it?
MAUI THING: It’s a collaborative effort between everyone. Sometimes it’s a designer, sometimes a sales associate, sometimes we partner with a non-profit. Either way, we love to keep it fun and fresh.
MAUITIME: Tell us more about the process of coming up with the clever tees and garments behind Maui Thing’s brand.
MAUI THING: The process really quite simply involves everyday inspiration by our beautiful surroundings. A design can be sparked by a childhood memory, a simple conversation with a friend or anything else we come across! Although we do have design styles and overall themes each season, we definitely stretch it to encompass whatever each designer is currently motivated by, as long as each design is “stuck on good” and inspired by good things on Maui!
MAUITIME: You’ve hired a fortune teller to tell the future for Maui Thing. What did she say?
MAUI THING: That we continue to cultivate our designs and our messaging. We have a lucky break when local boy gone global celebrity, Bruno Mars, is photographed wearing one of our t-shirts. She goes on to explain that our web sales blow up all across the nation, spreading the word about being “stuck on good.”
MAUITIME: Maui Thing has an affinity for local entertainment. Why is that important to your brand?
MAUI THING: We are simply music lovers and love supporting local artists. There’s just so much talent on our small island and we love spreading it. We saw potential in Wailuku First Friday when it first started and dedicated our efforts to not only creating a fresh, local clothing brand, but also playing a large role in creating a thriving community in Wailuku. Providing a stage and entertainment during the event seemed like a great way to help Wailuku come alive every first Friday of the month.
MAUITIME: How did you get your start in the fashion design and retail industry?
MAUI THING: Our formal training is actually in graphic communications. As graphic designers our responsibility is not only to create visually compelling image but to also communicate a message. In launching our retail store, we were fortunate to hire a lead manager/buyer from Honolua store. She was able to help us to lay the groundwork for a running clothing retail business.
MAUITIME: How did you manage to launch your own fashion line?
MAUI THING: With fearless confidence and the support of family and friends (Big Kahones). We truly believe that in a small community like ours, you first need the support of the ones that are closest to you. I guess that’s why our store is in Wailuku Town. The location is not ideal for any retailer, but I guess we’re a little stubborn in wanting Wailuku Town to become the vibrant place that we all wish it could be.
MAUITIME: What is your design philosophy?
MAUI THING: To listen, learn, grow and in the end believe in your product. To be honest, we’ve come up with concepts that we thought were genius, but they would fall short on sales. Other times we would bang out design and it would end up being a best seller. There are no absolute solutions when it comes to fashion because everyone has varying degrees of taste and rationales for their purchase. In the end, our goal is to connect with our consumers at a higher level. We want them to believe in our product not just because it looks cool, but also because it represents a philosophy of acceptance, creativity, understanding and all things good on Maui.
MAUITIME: What are your top five hot trends for the upcoming summer and fall seasons?
MAUI THING: Flowy tanks, crop tops, nature inspired, local culture expressions and the color green!
MAUITIME: What makes your line and store stand out from the crowd?
MAUI THING: As always, our designs are inspired by good things on Maui. Whether it’s something in our daily life, or the unique beauty that we’re so blessed to live in, we grasp inspiration from all over the island. We are focused on the community, positive and thoughtful messaging, creativity, local culture and the beauty of the land we live on. All of this comes together and is portrayed in our collection, season after season.
MAUITIME: Please tell me about the textiles you use in your designs. Any specific fabrics and colors that you love to work with?
MAUI THING: This year, one of our goals is to do more cut and sew pieces. So stay tuned for fresh textiles and new cuts in our store.
MAUITIME: What clothing and accessory lines do you carry in your store?
MAUI THING: Mostly just our own line, but we also have Hanu Hawaii bikini bottoms, Jana Lam clutches, Mitusa Maui hats and pouches and jewelry from all types of Maui girls.
MAUITIME: What’s the staple clothing item or accessory every woman on Maui be sure to have?
MAUI THING: A pareo. You can turn it into anything. It can be cool, warm, flowy, beachy, for every type of situation you find yourself in here on the island. Wear it as a cute cover-up, a beachy dress, a scarf, a shawl… We loooooove our pareos!
7 N. Market St., Wailuku