With love from paradise

As a young child, Kauai native Amie Gaines always saw herself as a girl with big dreams.

But fashion and sewing for Gaines, who grew up near Fuji Beach in Kapaa, was something that naturally fell into place and was a passion her parents fostered over the years.

Her mother, a seamstress, sewed most of Gaines’s bathing suits and clothes while she was growing up.

Her father was a surfboard shaper and her stepmother was a designer, who had her own patterns in Hawaii and would make her own clothes.

The sights and sounds of sewing machines and fabric, Gaines said, quickly became an important part of her childhood as her mother and stepmother taught her different seamstress techniques.

“It kind of was just embedded in my life,” the 32-year-old said. “I was just surrounded by tons of people who are creative and would make clothing and different things, so it was kind of something that I became more passionate about through high school.”

By the time she graduated from Kapaa High School in 1999, Gaines was going to thrift stores and re-altering the clothes she bought and making prom dresses for friends.

Over the years, Gaines, an alumna of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, has taken her passion for fashion design and applied it at several companies in the Los Angeles area, including Carol Anderson by invitation, Phoenix Textiles and Rampage Clothing Company.

She even spent a year in Hong Kong as the sportswear designer and product development director for Buffalo by David Bitton before deciding to come home to Kauai nearly two years ago.

“I was just waiting for the right opportunity to approach me,” Gaines recalled. “I was just here on vacation with my dad and my mom, and I thought, ‘Maybe I should start working on things for myself right now and see how it goes.’”

Several months later, Gaines and her mother began creating bralettes and tops out of Gaines’ Wailua home for swap meets and local venues.

Those products, Gaines said, quickly gained a following.

“It kind of presented itself to me naturally,” Gaines said. “I didn’t think it was going to get big — I thought it was just going to be fun for me to just do for a little while.”

It was a pivotal point that allowed her to create and launch her own brand, “With love from paradise.”

Jeni Kaohelaulii, owner of Work It Out in Kapaa, began carrying Gaines’ line about a year ago and said With love from paradise products are popular.

“We wanted to carry With love from paradise because we like to work with local designers,” Kaohelaulii said. “With love from paradise line fits our style — her pieces are versatile. Individuals can wear her clothing casually to work out in and even as swimwear. Discovering and supporting local brands is important to us so we have the opportunity to grow together.”

On most days, when she’s not doing yoga or surfing, she can be found at her home in Wailua with her mother sewing the company’s signature items.

In all, Gaines said she and her mother have created at least 1,000 tops since her brand launched a year and a half ago and have dedicated about 80 hours a week to her company.  

“I just wanted to stick with being the creator and being the designer — I just wanted to create,” Gaines said. “I think every designer wants to have their own line — some of them want to brand their name and brand their clothing — but I kind of just naturally give what I am talented at doing and offer a product that is really good for a lot of athletic women.”

TGI: As a Kauai native, was it difficult for you to adjust to the atmosphere in Los Angeles?

Amie Gaines: It’s definitely more fast-paced and there are a lot of people who are faster at getting things accomplished at times. I think L.A. has a lot of offer in terms of opportunities but it’s just fast moving all the time, which is nice because it keeps you motivated. I also lived in Hong Kong before moving home and that was actually really cool too because it’s even faster than L.A. There’s great qualities about it but it’s also overpopulated and crazy sometimes. I just felt like Hawaii brought me down to my roots and my childhood. It’s more grounding here — you can become yourself and express yourself better. I think L.A. is so saturated that you kind of get lost because there’s so many different brands. For me to branch out into a business, I just felt that Kauai would be the perfect place. Not only am I from here and understand the lifestyle and the culture, but I just thought it would be easier to start developing a relationship with other islands that way — that’s been kind of a dream of mine.

TGI: What was the biggest challenge of being in Los Angeles and working with well-known companies?

AG: You pretty much have to give your heart and soul to it — you have give all of your energy. Your life is kind of devoted to fashion from Monday through Sunday — even on your free time, you’re researching and doing a lot of work. It’s a lot of hands-on experience, and I think it’s good in that way, but I’ve also developed enough of an education on my own to understand what I need to do to start my own thing. It has also been great to gain relationships with pattern makers, cutters, sewers and manufacturers that I could possibly use in the near future.

TGI: Where did you get the name for your brand, With love from paradise?

AG: It’s hard to explain, but when you’re sending out a gift to someone who is not from Hawaii, “With love from paradise xoxo,” is kind of a love story in its own. I wanted to offer my product to someone in a way that is like giving a gift to somebody. I started it in a way where I thought it was going to be a hobby and not necessarily a brand, so within “With love from paradise,” I’ve also established a name that has been trademarked and one that I will eventually merge into. But, for now, it stuck for a lot of people and I didn’t really think it would, because it’s such a long name and it’s kind of hard to remember. I just think it taps into the connection of the Hawaiian Islands — it’s like love from what we would consider to be paradise, which I think is pretty right on.

TGI: Where do you get the inspiration for your clothing?

AG: I look at trend sites online and social media outlets and kind of see what inspires me, but on most of the prints that I’ve been using, like the Hawaiian tropical florals, I just like the bold, vibrant nature of it, because I feel like it makes you happy — kind of like mood adjuster. They’re just fun and the greatest thing about the collection, too, is that you can wear them in the water and on land. Canoe paddlers and stand-up paddlers can all wear them — they dry quick and keep you protected from the sun. I mainly choose my patterns and my fabrics on a color palette that I can see outwardly and is hip at the moment.

TGI: What would you like your brand to represent?

AG: It has always been based around being a surfer, being an island girl, understanding the lifestyle here and how surfing, water sports and other activities are on the island. You want to have diversity and versatility in your wardrobe and I wanted to bring that with a fashion edge that also represents Hawaii. I think it’s functional, fashion forward and you get more for your money that way — you can wear something to the beach and then you can honestly have it dry and wear it underneath your clothing or go straight to yoga and wear it there, too. There’s just so many ways you can wear the clothing that I’ve been creating over time, and I think just being here on the island has made me see what girls are really into. I’ve always been very aware of that, but I think that this time I was ready to create something that was suitable for just the island girl.

TGI: As a relatively new company and brand, what is your biggest challenge?

AG: Right now, I feel my biggest challenge is trying to get the product out there in the most successful way, because I’m doing everything from sewing it, building the website on my own, and doing all of the photography and all of the styling for the shoots. I think if I had a little bit more time to focus on just the selling part of it and not so much the manufacturing part of it, it would be a lot more beneficial for me because it would allow me to think ahead further and further and branch out into a few more stores. It’s just challenging when you’re doing it alone. Sometimes I wish I had a partner to balance things off of and I do that with my mom, but there’s moments where a helping hand would be good. Eventually, once I have enough financial stability, I can have somebody help me along with the process.

TGI: What are your short- and long-term goals?

AG: I’m developing enough production now that I can kind of expand — at first, I was hand-making everything myself, but now I’m manufacturing locally in the U.S. as well, so there’s a combination of both. But now that it’s become so widespread, it’s hard to keep up with the production and do everything by hand and I don’t have the personal time to think forward about what I’m going to do next and create what’s next. I’m looking for help to manufacture things in the U.S., and I’ve found one factory, but I’m going to keep running that way — I really want to stay within the U.S. If I could, in the scheme of things, I would love to keep it in Hawaii, but there’s not that many manufacturers on Oahu anymore, either, so it’s hard to find that.

TGI: When someone purchases your product, what is something that you want them to take away from it?

AG: When somebody purchases my product, I not only want them to want to come back for another color, print or option but I also just want them to spread the love and aloha in a way that allows them to share the uniqueness of the product. I just want customers to feel like it’s something they want to come back for and makes them excited to see what is coming up next. I have women who are young who love to wear the leggings and I have women in their 60s who are wearing these leggings, so it’s really great to see that there’s a broad amount of women who are adapting to the activewear I am offering — I love that. I’m really glad that it’s becoming widespread and I think, once people see it and love it, I want nothing more than for the customers who are wearing it to share the brand with others.

For more information, visit the With love from paradise website at www.withlovefromparadise.com or e-mail info@withlovefromparadise.com.

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